Threat reduction programs shift focus to bioweapons

A two decade-long U.S. Department of Defense program designed to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction from the former Soviet Union is shifting its focus from nuclear to biological weapons and from Russia to Southeast Asia and Africa.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global and Strategic Affairs Madelyn R. Creedon recently told a Senate panel that the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, established in 1991, is gradually shifting its efforts to biological threat reduction as it adapts to take on emerging threats in new regions.

"With all the work that's gone on in Russia over the better part of the last 20 years a lot has been accomplished," Creedon said.

Creedon recently testified before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities, which was meeting to review President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget request for programs that seek to slow the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons around the world.

"We do continue to do a variety of work with Russia and in time that will phase down a bit," Creedon said. "But we also value the relationship with Russia and in that context are seeking an extension of the umbrella agreement that allows for the work in Russia."

The current agreement ends in 2013, but an extension is in place to allow some work to continue in sustainment operations.

Creedon also said that the DOD is also working in some states in the former Soviet Union, particularly Kazakhstan and Ukraine, that have large biological security programs, but the effort is beginning to change.

"We are beginning to shift focus in the biological program to Africa and the Middle East, so in time we will transition over to those areas of the world as well," Creedon said.

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