CIAO DATE: 11/01

Proliferation: Threat and Response 2001

Office of the Secretary of Defense

U.S. Department of Defense
January 2001


In virtually every corner of the globe, the United States and its allies face a growing threat from the proliferation and possible use of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons and their delivery systems. In some cases, our chief concern is indigenous weapons development programs, in others it is transfer of hardware or know-how across international borders. Broadly, however, we have become increasingly concerned in recent years that NBC weapons, delivery systems, and technology may all be "for sale" to the highest bidder. In Northeast Asia, North Korea's extensive NBC weapons program threatens Japan, South Korea, and U.S. forces and interests in the region. In North Africa and the Middle East, states of proliferation concern–Libya, Syria, Iran, and Iraq–remain poised to develop and use all means at their disposal to threaten U.S. and allied interests in the region and beyond.

U.S. conventional military superiority paradoxically creates an incentive for adversary states to acquire NBC weapons. Because our potential adversaries know that they cannot win a conventional war against us, they are more likely to try asymmetric methods such as employing biological or chemical weapons or threatening the use of nuclear weapons. This strategy also applies to particular terrorist groups intent on inflicting a large number of casualties or causing panic, if such groups judge that conventional means are inadequate and they do not fear political or military retaliation.

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Depart-ment of Defense's (DoD) most recent strategic-level defense review, published in May 1997, concluded that the threat or use of chemical or biological weap-ons is a likely condition of future warfare and could occur in the very early stages of war to disrupt U.S. military operations and deployments of men and supplies into theater.

The QDR also observed that DoD had made substan-tial progress in preparing to deal with an adversary's use of NBC weapons. Nevertheless, it underscored two key challenges that DoD must meet to ensure future preparedness. The first challenge is to institu-tionalize counterproliferation as an organizing princi-ple in every facet of military activity planning, equipment, concepts, and training to ensure our forces can prevail against NBC –armed adversaries. The second is to internationalize our efforts to encourage allies and coalition partners to likewise train, equip, and prepare their forces to operate under chemical or biological weapons (CBW) conditions.

The publication serves as a multi-faceted tool for deci-sion- making by providing background on the threat and U.S. progress toward countering that threat. The first section of this report details the proliferation of NBC weapons and their delivery systems and the threat they pose to U.S. and allied forces and U.S. interest abroad. The second section of the report describes the DoD coordinated, comprehensive strat-egy to combat the international threats posed by the proliferation and possible use of NBC weapons and their delivery systems.

Read the full article here (PDF, 4.8MB)

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