In the committee’s assessment, there is a serious threat to naval forces from chemical and biological weapons today, and it is likely to grow with time. Because of the viability of short-range, land-based, or airborne-delivery systems, the littorals present a higher-risk environment than does the open ocean (which was the Cold War focus for chemical and biological weapons defense). But the committee believes that the threats could be even greater in ports, logistics chains, and military installations, where simple delivery methods can be utilized and reliance on commercial and/or foreign suppliers is the rule. As key technologies become more mature and widely available, adversaries armed with chemical or biological weapons can be expected to gain increased technical sophistication and operational capability. Taking into account the types of events listed in the prologue, this assessment of the chemical and biological threat to naval forces derives from the following principal factors:

  1. Today, chemical and biological weapons and/or weapons development programs can be found worldwide in every region where the possibility of interstate war exists. The programs of concern stretch in a virtually unbroken arc from Northern Africa through Southwest Asia, into South and Central Asia, up to Northeast Asia.1 Thus, in any theater where a major war is a planning imperative for U.S. military forces, chemical and biological threats are present.

  2. Moreover, among terrorist groups there is a rising interest in causing mass casualties and a parallel rising interest in the use of both chemical and biological weapons. Although many terrorists seem to regard the use of such weapons as unnecessary or counterproductive, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo did acquire and use them for many purposes, including attacks on U.S. naval forces.2 Al Qaeda is said to have established the acquisition of chemical and biological weapons as a “holy duty” for Muslims in its war with the United States and its secular allies.3 Given the proclivity of terrorists for making broader use of techniques whose effectiveness has been demonstrated (as in the well-known examples of skyjacking and suicide bombings), precedents for and any encouragement of the use of chemical and biological weapons are a source of particular concern.

The term “asymmetric strategy” has come into vogue to describe the kinds of approaches that regional powers and nonstate actors must pursue in confronting a country such as the United States that is militarily superior by any index of conven-


Cohen, William S., Secretary of Defense. 2001. Proliferation: Threat and Response, Washington, D.C. Available online at <>.


WuDunn, Sheryl, Judith Miller, and William J. Broad. 1998. “Sowing Death, A Special Report: How Japan Germ Terror Alerted World,” New York Times, May 26, p. A-1.


Yusufzai, Rahimulla. 1999. “Conversation with Terror,” Interview with Osama bin Laden, Time, Vol. 153, No. 1, p. 38.

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