Department of Defense to increase biothreat preparedness spending

The U.S. Department of Defense will increase spending to combat the threat of biological weapons, such as the toxin ricin, in the wake of an assessment that a terror group might conduct a "limited" attack on U.S. soil within the next year.

The U.S. intelligence community believes that a mass attack by terrorists using a chemical, biological or radiological weapon is "unlikely" in the next year, but Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently told a Senate panel there is concern that a limited attack on the United States or on U.S. interests could take place, according to Business Week.

Clapper said in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that lone actors, either abroad or within the United States, would be capable of launching an attack in the next 12 months. He also said that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which currently operates in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, could attempt to carry out a limited attack in the near future.

The current threat assessment was announced following the release last week of the Pentagon's budget priorities over the next five years. DOD planners chose to protect spending on measures to counter weapons of mass destruction and are increasing funding in the field of biological weapons protection.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently warned of the threat posed by biological weapons while speaking at a Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention held in Geneva.

"A crude, but effective, terrorist weapon can be made by using a small sample of any number of widely available pathogens, inexpensive equipment and college-level chemistry and biology," Clinton said, Business Week reports. "Even as it becomes easier to develop these weapons, it remains extremely difficult - as you know - to detect them."

Last year, the threat assessment jointly issued by U.S. intelligence agencies contained only three lines to the terrorist threat posed by CBRN weapons.

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