U.S. approach to preventing biological weapons proliferation and bioterrorism.

Position:Use of Force and Arms Control

At the annual meeting of parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in Geneva in December 2009, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauser described the U.S. administration's strategy for countering threats from biological weapons. Tauser signaled, inter alia, increased U.S. assistance to other countries in developing systems to detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. She also underscored continued U.S. opposition to a BWC verification protocol, given the rapid pace of developments in the biological sciences and the ease of concealing a biological weapons program. (Earlier efforts to negotiate a verification protocol collapsed in 2001 after the United States withdrew.) (1) Excerpts from her speech follow:

The United States intends to implement this strategy [for preventing biological weapons proliferation and bioterrorism] through renewed cooperation and more thorough consultations with our international counterparts in order to prevent the misuse and abuse of science while working together to strengthen health security around the world. ... [A] major biological weapons attack on one of the world's major cities could cause as much death and economic and psychological damage as a nuclear attack. And while the United States remains concerned about state-sponsored biological warfare and proliferation, we are equally, if not MORE concerned, about an act of bioterrorism, due to the increased access to advances in the life sciences. Around the world, we are experiencing an unparalleled period of scientific advancement and innovation in biology. ... [Significant capabilities for harm are already available to small groups and individuals and the prospect of bioterrorism represents a growing risk for the global community. Already we have seen terrorist groups like Al Qa'ida seek biological materials and expertise in order to conduct a biological attack. That is why we in the United States are calling for all of you to join us in bolstering the Biological Weapons Convention, the premier forum for dealing with biological threats. The Obama administration's new strategy for countering biological threats--both natural and man-made--rests upon the main principle of the Biological Weapons Convention: that the use of biological weapons is "repugnant to the conscience of mankind." That's why we believe we have developed an approach that strikes a balance between supporting scientific progress and...

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