Publications

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Biological & Chemical Defense

Aug. 7, 2017

A Short History of Biological Warfare: From Pre-History to the 21st Century

This short monograph reviews the history of biological warfare (BW) from prehistory to the present. It covers what we know about the practice of BW and briefly describes the programs that developed BW weapons based on the best available research.

July 18, 2016

The Soviet Biological Weapons Program and Its Legacy in Today’s Russia

In its first Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Case Study, the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CSWMD) at the National Defense University examined President Richard M. Nixon’s decision, on November 25, 1969, to terminate the U.S. offensive biological weapons program. This occasional paper seeks to explain why the Soviet government, at approximately the same time, decided to do essentially the opposite, namely, to establish a large biological warfare (BW) program that would be driven by newly discovered and powerful biotechnologies. By introducing the innovation of recombinant DNA technology—commonly referred to as genetic engineering—the Soviets were attempting to create bacterial and viral strains that were more useful for military purposes than were strains found in nature.

Jan. 1, 2004

Dirty Bombs: The Threat Revisited

Nuclear radiation, invisible and detectable only with special instruments, has the power to terrify—in part because of its association with nuclear weapons—and to become an instrument of terrorists. Radioactive isotopes can be spread widely with or without high explosives by a radiological dispersion device (RDD) or so-called dirty bomb. This paper provides a general overview of the nature of RDDs and sources of material for them and estimates the effects of an assault, including casualties and economic consequences. Many experts believe that an RDD is an economic weapon capable of inflicting devastating damage on the United States. This paper is in full agreement with that assessment and makes some quantitative estimates of the magnitude of economic disruption that can be produced by various levels of attack. It is also generally believed that even a very large RDD is unlikely to cause many human casualties, either immediately or over the long term. A careful examination of the consequences of the tragic accident in Goiânia, Brazil, however, shows that some forms of radiological attack could kill tens or hundreds of people and sicken hundreds or thousands. Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, RDDs are not weapons of mass destruction.