Expert calls for investment in biological threat countermeasures

Richard Danzig, chairman of the Center for a New American Security, recently warned that the investment in countering biological threats must be made against a wide array of possibilities.

Danzig, who made his comments for a published interview with CBRNe World, feels that, in the short term, anthrax remains the largest biothreat we face. He also believes, however, that the development and subsequent proliferation of biotechnology and the ability to create new pathogens could drastically alter the existing balance.

As for the obstacles facing the terrorists, Danzig was hardly sanguine. When asked if the difficulty of dissemination will remain the world’s saving grace, Danzig replied, according to CBRNe World, “I think dissemination techniques can be mastered without great difficulty by people who have the right skill set.”

In the past, Danzig has said that he felt the subject of bioterrorism was either too hard or thought to be unnecessary by the nation’s policy makers. When asked for his current opinion, Danzig was guardedly optimistic.

“On the broad point there has been progress in thinking about biological attacks, and there is a wider and more educated community of thinkers and policy makers sensitive to this threat than would have been the case when I first started writing about this 15 years ago," Danzig told CBRNe World. "So there has been progress.”

The next step, according to Danzig, is to get policy makers away from traditional thinking that is only now being reshaped. For instance, Danzig believes that while current planning to make aerosol detection systems more rapid and effective is important, it is maybe more important to broaden the detection systems to include a wider array of pathogens. This may involve moving away from environmental sampling and towards surveillance of population health.