Science Magazine Biodefense News – Army Bans Pathogen Work

Today Science Magazine is reporting that the Army has banned all pathogen research at one of its labs at the Armed Forced Institute of Pathology (AFIP) in Washington, DC. This decision was made December 2, 2008 as a result of an earlier failed Biological Surety Inspection, and not made public.

Science reports that “officials found that lab managers ignored information about certain employees that could have disqualified them from having access to dangerous pathogens. The redacted version of the IG’s [Inspector General’s] report released to Science does not divulge the nature of this so-called potentially disqualifying information, but it could be anything from alcoholism to mental instability.”

On October 28, 2008 AR 50-1 came into effect, stipulating a strict Biological Personnel Reliability Program for DOD employees as part of their Biological Surety Program. It includes and intense background investigation and interviews  of employees as well as regulations regarding substance abuse and mental health.

In early February the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) also suspended its research on biological select agents and toxins when it was realized that there were problems with the system of accounting for high risk microbes and biological materials in the laboratories at Fort Detrick, MD.

Congressional Commission and Nuclear “Requirements”

The Congressional Commission on the strategic posture report released yesterday is what the Air Force calls a “target rich environment.” There is a lot to shoot at. This essay follows up on the post that Hans Kristensen and I published yesterday. I want to continue the theme I discussed yesterday that the recommendations of the report are based on assumptions about nuclear weapons characteristics, assumptions that are implicit, unexamined, and unsupportable.
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Strategic Failure: Congressional Strategic Posture Commission Report

The final report from the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission seems focused on hedging rather than leading.

By Ivan Oelrich and Hans M. Kristensen

The Congressional Strategic Posture Commission report published today is definitely not the place that the President or the nation should look for new ideas on how to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and lead the world toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Even for a compromise document written by a diverse group, it is a work of deeply disappointing failure of imagination.  The recommendations can be summarized as:  the nuclear world should stay pretty much the way it is but at slightly lower force levels, incrementalism is the most we can hope for, and even that should be approached very cautiously.

The report comes close to dismissing the President’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons – and the enthusiastic support it has generated worldwide – as a utopian dream:  “The conditions that might make the elimination of nuclear weapons possible are not present today and establishing such conditions would require a fundamental transformation of the world political order.”  The United States should retain a viable nuclear deterrence “indefinitely.”  The Commission surrenders to the nuclear problems of the world rather than recommending a proactive way forward out of the mess.

Of course, the Commission is not opposed to nuclear reductions per se and supports them under certain conditions, but it recommends that the approach “balances deterrence, arms control, and non-proliferation.  Singular emphasis on one or another element,” the report says, apparently hinting at disarmament, “would reduce the nuclear security of the United States and its allies.”

If the Commission’s report is any preview of the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, we should expect minimal changes in nuclear forces, structure, or mission.  The report recommends a nuclear policy of “leading and hedging” but seems to be focused on hedging.

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