War on Terrorism

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Cooperative Effort Helps Stop Spread of WMDs, Officials Say

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2014 – Weapons of mass destruction can spread at the speed of an airliner, a missile, or even the internet, the deputy assistant defense secretary for countering weapons of mass destruction said today.

“Countering such complex and dynamic threats requires flexible, innovative and agile responses, as well as whole-of-department, whole-of-government and, indeed, even whole-of-international-community solutions,” Rebecca K. C. Hersman told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.

The international effort to destroy Syria's chemical weapons was unprecedented in scale, speed and complexity, she said, adding that it serves as a vivid example of what is possible with these types of cooperative efforts.

“Today, thanks to the efforts of many contributors, and the support of Congress, Syria's chemical weapons program is on the path to elimination,” Hersman said.

The centerpiece of the U.S. contribution to the effort to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons materials is the container ship Cape Ray, which is outfitted with two of DOD's recently developed field deployable hydrolysis systems.

The system is one of the best examples of the capabilities of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, said Kenneth A. Myers III, the director of both agencies.

“We had the expertise to evaluate a serious WMD threat,” he said. “We developed the needed technologies and we provided planning support to all aspects of the operation.”

Funded predominately through the department's cooperative threat reduction program, Hersman said, the system stands ready to neutralize the most dangerous chemicals in the Syrian arsenal in a safe, secure and environmentally sound fashion.

“This type of creative, collaborative approach to a WMD challenge can't be the exception, it must be the rule,” she added.

In January, DTRA-SSC announced the completion of the destruction of weaponized mustard agent in Libya, the officials said.

The agency destroyed 517 mustard-filled artillery rounds, eight 500-pound aerial bombs and 45 insert tubes, Myers noted.

This success was possible, Hersman said, only through the resources and expertise of DOD’s cooperative threat reduction program, coupled with cooperation from the Libyan government, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and contributions from the German government.

Myers told committee members that another critical mission for the agencies combating the spread of WMDs is the intersection of terrorism and the acquisition of WMD materials -- particularly biological threats.

The threat is still emerging and evolving, he said, and DTRA and SCC-WMD are expanding their areas of cooperation in order to stay one step ahead.

“We work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and we often pursue global health security projects together internationally,” Myers said.

While the CDC handles public health issues, they are not equipped to address the security threat posed by deadly pathogens, he said. DTRA and SCC-WMD are equipped to handle such threats, Myers noted, so earlier this year, the three agencies signed a memorandum of understanding and a strategy for joint work.

“These documents will maximize our effectiveness related to bio threats around the world and ensure that there is no duplication of efforts,” he said.

Looking ahead, the department must continue to partner with other organizations and countries to use all available resources to address future chemical, nuclear and biological threats, Hersman said.

“I am proud of what our team has achieved and believe that we have served as good stewards of the taxpayer dollar,” Myers said. “As we look to [fiscal year 2015], I am confident that we are prepared to address future WMD threats around the world.”

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