Appendix B


Additional Thoughts on the Nature of the Chemical Threat

HARD INTELLIGENCE IS DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN

Considering the rather amorphous, shifting scope of the threat, the definition of what makes a “credible adversary” has changed significantly since the end of the Cold War, and as a result, the scope of required intelligence gathering efforts for both conventional and CB weapons has broadened. When considering CBW in particular, a wide range of possible weapons are available to a potential adversary, and though their preferred weapon will depend on their objectives and available capabilities and resources, this range makes collecting “hard” intelligence—e.g., well-defined intent, and capabilities with respect to the development, acquisition, and delivery mechanisms—difficult to obtain and corroborate. Though techniques for information acquisition and analysis continue to advance, the range and variability of possible CB weapons mean that the difficulties posed by this complexity will continue to make reliable intelligence gathering a challenge into the foreseeable future. Thus, it is fair to say that the CBD program cannot rely on breakthroughs in intelligence on adversaries’ CB terrorism or warfare programs to determine the prioritization of its investments or deliverables.

The presence of US forces in numerous geographic niches, the diversity of potential biological threat agents, and the forces’ proximity to naturally occurring diseases, makes comprehensive force health protection daunting. Additionally, the scalability of impact of naturally occurring and nefarious attacks must be addressed, i.e., not only can the massive release of a known or previously unanticipated agent have major



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Appendix B Additional Thoughts on the Nature of the Chemical Threat HARD INTELLIGENCE IS DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN Considering the rather amorphous, shifting scope of the threat, the definition of what makes a "credible adversary" has changed significantly since the end of the Cold War, and as a result, the scope of required intelligence gathering efforts for both conventional and CB weapons has broadened. When considering CBW in particular, a wide range of pos- sible weapons are available to a potential adversary, and though their preferred weapon will depend on their objectives and available capabili- ties and resources, this range makes collecting "hard" intelligence--e.g., well-defined intent, and capabilities with respect to the development, acquisition, and delivery mechanisms--difficult to obtain and corrobo- rate. Though techniques for information acquisition and analysis continue to advance, the range and variability of possible CB weapons mean that the difficulties posed by this complexity will continue to make reliable intelligence gathering a challenge into the foreseeable future. Thus, it is fair to say that the CBD program cannot rely on breakthroughs in intel- ligence on adversaries' CB terrorism or warfare programs to determine the prioritization of its investments or deliverables. The presence of US forces in numerous geographic niches, the diversity of potential biological threat agents, and the forces' proxim- ity to naturally occurring diseases, makes comprehensive force health protection daunting. Additionally, the scalability of impact of naturally occurring and nefarious attacks must be addressed, i.e., not only can the massive release of a known or previously unanticipated agent have major 111

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112 APPENDIX B impact on warfighter readiness and operational effectiveness but so can a small amount artfully or serendipitously focused and delivered. What should be the strategies that underlie the CBD program? It may be that it is to defend massed US ground forces against a Soviet-like attack, but that objective is a very limited one, and current efforts--based on suits and masks of uncertain value--are focused on a historical threat, and do nothing to reduce the possibility of strategic surprise. There are so many ways that new weapons (e.g., a "chemical suicide bomber," or, in a few years, "swarm" attacks using CB weapons) can be used that fixating on the cold-war threat is probably addressing a low-risk event. Staying with a historical threat, and not rethinking the problem, is, of course, choosing: "Not to choose is to choose." THE USE CASES HAVE CHANGED Conventional Military Engagements Use against Troops in the Field. The evaluation of conventional military agents against equipped, protected troops in maneuver warfare (in the imagined Fulda gap battlefield) is believed to be relatively ineffective, at least in part because covering a sig- nificant area with an effective concentration requires very large amounts of agent. The correctness of this evaluation has never been tested, especially for combat in hot climates, in urban or jungle warfare, in innovative attacks against high-value facili- ties, or in special operations. Requiring troops to perform at high tempo in hot climates, in protective gear, would probably require much lower amounts to be effective than in cooler climates. The influence of protective gear on vision, and on the ability to work in warm climates are well understood intellectually, but their impact on the ability to perform combat operations has not been convincingly evaluated. Use against Bases or High-Value Sites. When valuable, and mis- sion-critical, supplies are assembled in concentrated temporary storage in one place (as a port of debarkation or embarkation, a large logistics base), the use of a highly toxic and persistent agent is a plausible way of slowing or stopping operations. Especially in the early stages of a forced entry, a counterattack (perhaps a swarming attack combining rockets, clouds, and suicide missions with trucks and boats) could dramatically slow the tempo of operations (but would again require extensive preparation and synthesis, and large quantities of materials).

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APPENDIX B 113 Unconventional Uses Chemical weapons are probably best suited for use against targets having a small footprint or volume, since the quantity of material required may then be small. Use in Forced Entry, or Special Operations. A small group forcing entry, or localized but hidden (special operations), or restricted to a firebase, are vulnerable to local attack using chemical weapons, and hindered in their mission if present in protective gear. Use by Insurgents. An innovative group of insurgents could readily find uses for chemical weapons in denying entry to build- ings or neighborhoods, in slowing operations, in disabling guards around facilities, and in increasing the lethality of IEDs by com- bining them with (separate) explosive attacks. Use against Civilian Populations or Non-Combatants. When it is useful to cause panic in a civilian population (to slow US military traffic through a city, to flood highways important for logistics movements with civilians, and so on) chemical weapons are attractive; relatively small quantities would be required to cause panic, and the effect on population movement would be large. Use against Politically Sensitive Targets: Embassies and Mis- sions Corporations. In conflicts (probably most conflicts for the future) where political impact is more important than numbers of casualties, chemical weapons could be very effective. As an example, an attack on an embassy, other diplomatic establish- ments, a corporate headquarters, or an oil-transshipment facil- ity using persistent nerve agents would attract more attention-- especially to the resulting casualties--than would an attack using explosives. Amplification of Effectiveness of Chemical Weapons using Social Media. Many people fear "chemicals" to a degree that is disproportionate to the harm they might cause, and the combina- tion of rumor and casualties could cause substantial disruption. For example, a coordinated set of attacks on subway systems would (at least in the United States, and most developed coun- tries, if history is a guide) massively disrupt the economic perfor- mance of a surrounding city, and be both immediately expensive, and would be even more expensive later as protective measure and regulations (in the manner of 9/11) was installed. In a non-US city, panic or anger about casualties and disruption could be used to deny US access to local facilities.

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114 APPENDIX B CHARACTERISTICS OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS Traditional Chemical Weapons. The majority of chemical weap- ons were developed in the period spanning WWI and WWII. Although simple agents (e.g., phosgene, chlorine, mustard) were effective against stationary, poorly protected troops in WWI, they were almost not used in the interwar period or in WWII (Italy in Ethiopia being a counterexample), and were judged by the United States to be inefficient for land warfare in the hypothetical conflict with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, however, reached a dif- ferent conclusion, and continued to develop both chemical and biological weapons. One possible use was considered to be as a tactical weapon to slow the tempo of operations of an opponent in maneuver warfare; a possible second use was to be in combina- tion with biological weapons as a method of attacking survivors and remaining industrial capability after the physical destruction of cities. Evolved Chemical Weapons. The chemical weapons now of greatest concern are nerve agents and mustards, with a number of other agents--some not originally considered as weapons-- also of interest and concern. The nerve agents have been highly developed, in a substantial variety of forms, with some having problematic characteristics for current equipment. Both nerve and mustard agents have the characteristics that survivors of chemical injury can require prolonged and expensive care, and thus may place a burden and expense on the force supporting them. Advanced Weapons. There are a number of newly considered nerve agents that have characteristics that require rethinking, both in terms of treaty restrictions, surveillance, detection, and protective gear. These agents are problematic, but we know about them, and we know their structures. Potentially as problematic are compounds that have not been considered (or not yet been considered) as weapons. The history of the pharmaceutical indus- try is full of compounds that are highly toxic, and design param- eters for a new weapon are easily imagined (pick an essential receptor present in low concentration and antagonize it; pick an organ whose damage is life threatening or incapacitating--e.g., lung, heart, retina, pancreas--and develop a drug toxic to that system). It is worrisome that we still do not know/understand all that the Russians were doing, although we know that they had-- or claimed to have--interests in a number of types of compounds that we had not actively developed in our programs in chemi- cal weapons. Further, biology has progressed so extraordinarily

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APPENDIX B 115 rapidly in the last three decades that one can imagine rational programs leading to quite new toxic activities. Industrial Chemicals and Derivatives of Them. For terrorist use, industrial chemicals (e.g., chlorine, phosgene, hydrogen peroxide, hydrofluoric acid) might be attractive since they are widely avail- able, and are often shipped thorough, or in the vicinity, of cities in tank car or tank truck quantities. Although such shipments are easy to track in the developed world, they are not in the devel- oping world, and can be adapted as weapons (as ammonium nitrate--a common fertilizer, has been adapted as an explosive). In open spaces these chemicals tend to dissipate by mixing with the atmosphere; in enclosed spaces they are more effective. Weapons for Use by Terrorists. Chemical weapons are very well suited for attacks in which the target is a "soft" biological target in an enclosed space (e.g., commuters in a subway or bus, children in schools, passengers in airplanes). HCN, H2S are both readily prepared, and quite capable of causing a significant number of casualties. These compounds could be used to disrupt transporta- tion systems. Benzene and carbon tetrachloride are readily avail- able, and although not very toxic on single exposure, potential tools to cause panic since both are known to cause cancer; afla- toxin is a fungal product which is a very potent carcinogen. Biological Toxin Weapons. Biology produces a number of very toxic molecules (botulism toxin, ricin, many others: for example, peptides that alter mood, or produce fear, or interfere with judg- ment or memory or immune function or reproductive perfor- mance). These compounds are not volatile, and would probably have to be delivered in an aerosol. The technology of biological toxins is sophisticated, but well understood. An important feature of these materials is that the onset of symptoms can sometimes be delayed, so warning through development of symptoms may not happen until well after delivery of a complete dose. They also have the property that they fall "between" chemical and biologi- cal weapons, and are thus ambiguous in who is responsible for them. GENERAL CONCERNS Cost Effectiveness. Chemical weapons have the potential to be effective in confined spaces, particularly when the primary objec- tive is to cause disruption rather than large number of casual- ties. They are, therefore, effective as weapons in terrorism and insurgency, and against specific, localized, military targets; they

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116 APPENDIX B are probably less effective against large-area targets, where large industrial facilities and transportation systems are required to manufacture and move the required materials. The current programs in chemical defense in the DoD are focused on cold-war programs, and these may be concerned with the wrong threat, or perhaps a threat with a low probability rela- tive to threats growing from attacks on the United States through low-intensity conflict intended to achieve its ends by causing popular dissatisfaction, politically unsupportable levels of casual- ties, and unacceptable expense. Scaling to Bulk Production. The production of chemical agents is not difficult technically (relative to either biological and nuclear weapons), but obviously requires care if the operators of the pro- cesses are not to kill themselves and their immediate neighbors. Any country capable to a moderate level of industrial activity (for example, Iraq, Iran, N. Korea, Libya, etc.) can make them, and do so in bulk. Terrorist and insurgents apparently have not been able to make the more advanced agents (or the safer but more techni- cally sophisticated binary weapons), or have not chosen to do so. Medical Treatment and Sequella. Very little is known about the long-term sequella in human health resulting from exposure to chemical agents. Agents developed early in the history of this class of weapons (phosgene, chlorine) damaged and killed tis- sue, but otherwise seemed not to have hidden effects. The nerve agents have the reputation of paralyzing muscle by blocking the activity of acetyl cholinesterase, but also clearly influence this and related enzymes in other tissues, and especially in the brain; this kind of activity is presumed to be the basis for the seizures that result from exposure to nerve agents. The nature of damage to the brain and central nervous systems, and to other tissues that use acetylcholinesterase, or that react with organophosphates, is not well understood, nor is its duration or long-term consequences. If neurological damage is severe, prolonged, and expensive, the long-term care of exposed populations--both military and civilian--needs to be examined and optimized to avoid ruinous expense. Innovation in Chemical Weapons. There has been little innova- tion by insurgents or terrorists in the development of chemi- cal weapons, but that fact should be only cold comfort. Explo- sives are more familiar, and weapons based on explosives (IEDs, EFPs, suicide bombers) have been effective, very cost effective and innovative. Chemical weapons (even simple one) provide an unfamiliar and somewhat more difficult technical barrier to

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APPENDIX B 117 entry, but when this barrier is breached, there is great potential for development of effective, targeted uses. (This area would benefit from imaginative red-team development/thinking on the part of the United States, to avoid strategic surprise.) Role of Pharmaceutical Companies. In the course of reducing toxicity in biological chemical entities, the pharmaceutical indus- try is probably the greatest source of expertise on the toxicity of new, and new classes of, chemicals. The agricultural industries concerned with animal health, insecticides, and similar matters is another source of relevant expertise. Countries that have endoge- nous, developed pharmaceutical companies or industries, or have important farming sectors, are candidates for concern as sources both of skilled personnel, and as the sources for the invention or synthesis/manufacturing of chemical agents. Science Base for Understanding the Effects of Chemical Weap- ons. Although nerve agents, in specific, are recognized as the most important single class of chemical agents, it is remarkable that so little fundamental scientific research has been devoted to understanding how and where they act. This information is not an academic curiosity: it is required for the development of rational therapies for treating injuries resulting from exposure to nerve agents, and for predicting the direction of development of future nerve agents. It will also be important in recruiting the pharmaceutical industry into collaborative work (acetyl cholines- terase inhibitors are being explored, for example, as drugs for use against Alzheimer's disease).

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