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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union
ties, pathogen security, and research activities on a broad basis. BTRP needs to expand cooperation with U.S. and foreign government and nongovernment organizations with overlapping interests. DOD’s planning and operational procedures should be streamlined. Sustainability must be at the top of its priority concerns. Strategic plans and more meaningful metrics developed with partner governments that respond to the overall interests of the governments need to guide the effort.
DOD should consider this report as more than a series of disconnected recommendations from which it can simply choose. Each recommendation addresses an important issue that needs to be considered in an integrated manner if BTRP is to find success in its effort to reduce the risks associated with the threat of bioterrorism. This report provides an overall framework and a starting point to finding the best approaches within the framework.
As the first step in developing an action plan, DOD should promptly identify initial target countries outside the FSU. The selection criteria for target countries are numerous but should include (1) the likelihood of significant risk reduction and (2) the near-term likelihood that successes can be sustained over the long term. In some cases, BTRP may be the appropriate lead organization for the U.S. effort, while in other cases, BTRP may play a supporting role in the national effort. Of course, BTRP must be welcomed in the countries of interest.
Whether reconstructing facilities, upgrading surveillance or research capabilities, or providing training and related services, BTRP’s activities should be based on a clear vision of how they will improve biosecurity in the next 5 years. In some cases, a broad countrywide approach may be necessary to reduce vulnerabilities significantly. In other cases, a relatively minor contribution by BTRP may make a substantial difference in the biosecurity landscape of the country.
In conclusion, BTRP can make a significant contribution to raising awareness of the governments, specialists, and public in developing countries of the importance of a range of policies and programs for addressing biological threats. An effective mechanism for raising awareness is the launching of cooperative projects that demonstrate the impacts of practical approaches to addressing vulnerabilities while also enhancing economic development opportunities. The community of specialists in the field of biosecurity is small, and information about BTRP cooperative projects will spread quickly. Discrete, time-limited, and action-oriented projects rather than vague promises and endless discussions should continue to characterize BTRP’s approaches. In time, BTRP activities, as part of an integrated U.S. government approach, should increase respect for U.S. humanitarian-oriented objectives while reducing biosecurity threats.