15 November 2002
Source: http://usinfo.state.gov/cgi-bin/washfile/display.pl?p=/products/washfile/latest&f=02111402.plt&t=/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml

US Department of State
International Information Programs

Washington File

14 November 2002

Fact Sheet Shows U.S. Efforts to Combat Biological Weapons Threat

 (Biological weapons threat is real, growing, dangerous) (1090)

 Following is a fact sheet from the U.S. Delegation to the 5th Review
 Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) held in Geneva
 November 14:

 (begin fact sheet)


 United States' Efforts to Combat the Biological Weapons Threat

 Released in Geneva 
 by the 
 U.S. Delegation to the 5th Review Conference of the BWC
 November 14, 2002

 The biological weapons (BW) threat is real, growing, extremely
 dangerous, and evolving rapidly with the pace of technology. In the
 past year, significant progress has been made to combat the threat.
 This fact sheet outlines some of the steps the United States has
 taken, nationally, plurilaterally, and multilaterally, to make it more
 difficult for countries or terrorist groups to develop and/or acquire
 biological weapons. It also outlines measures that the United States
 has endorsed to facilitate detection and response to an attack using
 biological weapons.

 National Efforts

 The USA Patriot Act, signed in October 2001, provides national
 security and Federal law enforcement officials with enhanced tools to
 better counter terrorist activities in three areas:

 -- Improves information gathering and sharing;

 -- Strengthens law enforcement's ability to investigate, prosecute,
 prevent, and punish crimes of terrorism; and

 -- Enhances immigration officials' ability to exclude or deport aliens
 engaged in terrorist activity.

 The U.S. Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and
 Response Act, June 2002, enhances controls on dangerous biological
 agents and toxins that could pose a threat to public health and
 safety. The Act requires:

 -- Assessment and improvement of the integrity and security of
 facilities, systems, and personnel who are vulnerable to attack
 (includes hospitals preparedness reviews, water supply vulnerability
 assessments, and facility upgrades);

 -- Improvement of pathogen security measures (creation of new select
 agent list and registration of individuals and facilities working with
 these select agents);

 -- Establishment of criminal penalties for transfers to unregistered
 persons and failure to register for possession of listed agents and
 toxins; and

 -- Improvement of public health capabilities (strengthens hospital and
 public health care provider response capabilities, and creates a
 strategic national vaccine stockpile).

 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] dedicated $1
 billion [$1,000 million] to upgrade U.S. public health system's
 capability to counter bioterrorism. HHS has established a program
 focused on:

 -- Preparedness of state and local health departments to respond to

 -- Detection of outbreaks of illness that might have been caused by

 -- Epidemiological analysis of outbreaks to identify the source(s) and
 mode(s) of transmission; and

 -- Electronic communications among public health officials regarding
 occurrences of outbreaks and responses to them.

 Plurilateral Efforts

 In May 2002, NATO's Defense Group on Proliferation set forth a series
 of mutually-supporting initiatives designed to:

 -- Rapidly detect BW agents;

 -- Respond effectively to a BW attack;

 -- Enhance defense training and education;

 -- Stockpile medical and protective equipment; and

 -- Enhance NATO's medical surveillance capabilities.

 In June 2002, Australia Group [AG] members adopted tougher export
 measures to better control items which could be used to produce BW,
 including adding controls on the transfer of information and knowledge
 that could aid BW proliferation. AG members:

 -- Adopted "catch-all" constraints;

 -- Agreed to lower the threshold for controlling fermenters (from 100
 liters to 20 liters);

 -- Added 8 toxins to the biological control list;

 -- Adopted controls on technology associated with dual-use biological
 equipment; and

 -- Agreed to control intangible technology that could be used to
 advance BW programs.

 In June 2002, G-8 members announced the "G-8 Global Partnership
 Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction." The
 U.S. pledged $10 billion [$10,000 million] to enhance key U.S.
 nonproliferation projects in the former Soviet Union. Key BW-related
 projects include securing pathogens, employing former weapons
 scientists, and enhancing export controls and border security. The
 U.S. urged other G-8 states to donate $10 billion [$10,000 million]
 over 10 years hence the name "10+10 over 10."

 The Ottawa Group (G-7 Ministers of Health plus Mexico's Minister of
 Health) have met periodically since September 11, 2001, to explore
 ways to strengthen collaborative efforts to better prepare for and
 counter bioterrorist threats. The Group will meet again in December to
 discuss and make decisions on:

 -- The basis for creating a global smallpox vaccine strategic reserve;

 -- Common approaches to risk assessment and risk management

 -- International cooperation on pandemic influenza preparedness; and

 -- A U.S. proposal to develop an early warning global component to
 current disease surveillance systems.

 Multilateral Efforts

 In May 2002, World Health Organization (WHO) members agreed to
 strengthen health surveillance systems to detect any possible BW
 attack and improve international response to stop any resultant
 outbreak. WHO members agreed to:

 -- Treat a BW attack as a global health threat and respond by sharing
 resources, expertise, and supplies;

 -- Provide mutual support to enhance national BW crisis management

 -- Ensure that national disease surveillance plans complement regional
 and global surveillance mechanisms;

 -- Collaborate in analyzing and sharing surveillance data; and

 -- Cooperate to enhance national capacities in field epidemiology,
 laboratory diagnosis and toxicology.

 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will support the
 extension of an early warning surveillance network to an international
 capability. Epidemiologists will be positioned in population centers
 around the world. Their role will be to provide early warning by
 reporting the detection, diagnosis, and mitigation of illness and
 injury caused by biological or chemical terrorism.

 The World Customs Organization (WCO) has developed an action plan to
 improve border security by strengthening members' inspections of
 international cargo traffic.

 -- WCO provides technical experts to train member states' customs
 officials and help them acquire necessary equipment for border

 -- WCO has begun information sharing with INTERPOL and WHO to combat
 the smuggling of biological, chemical and radioactive materials.

 -- WCO has developed a restricted Customs Enforcement Network database
 for sharing intelligence information among member states. To implement
 this effort, WCO has established eleven Regional Intelligence Liaison
 Offices to input intelligence information.

 International Maritime Organization (IMO) has an effort to stop the
 shipping of biological agents for hostile purposes and to criminalize
 the use of biological weapons on maritime vessels. In December 2002,
 IMO members will consider new regulations to enhance ship and port

 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) members
 recently affirmed their collective commitment to battle terrorism.

 -- OSCE members expressed support for export control groups, such as
 the Australia Group, and proposed standards for licensing and
 enforcement procedures related to biological weapons-relevant
 pathogens and dual-use equipment.

 -- OSCE has sponsored a series of conferences to urge member states to
 comply with relevant international standards, cooperate with
 enforcement organizations, and continue to examine ways to coordinate
 on nonproliferation.

 (end fact sheet)

 (Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
 Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)