Hersman discusses countering weapons of mass destruction with Senate committee

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Rebecca Hersman addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday to provide an overview of the Defense Authorization Request.

Hersman said Counter-WMD efforts are focused on being able to prepare and address future challenges that might emerge and escalate quickly. The budget request for fiscal year 2015 would enable the office to further its programs and partnerships.

Hersman said countries and independent organizations are pursuing weapons of mass destruction, which poses a threat to the United States, its partners and allies. The evolution of weapons, materials, tactics and technology challenge the country's ability to counter the threats. She said the ability to keep up with emerging threats requires flexible and innovative solutions that will bring defense into the 21st century.

As biological weapons continue to threaten the U.S., the Department of Defense is working to develop a strategy to prevent and discourage the malicious use of pathogens and biological agents. The strategy includes consolidating collections of pathogens to decrease the possibility of accidental release, identifying security breaches and potential internal threats and enforcing protection measures such as vaccinations.

Hersman said the DoD also is prepared to respond to biological threats, which requires proactive use of new therapeutics, biosurveillance systems and diagnostic systems. She said a holistic approach that uses collaborations between agencies is an efficient and pragmatic way to address threats.

She said nuclear threats remain a major concern for CWMD, and countering the spread and use of WMD is not limited to only the DoD or the government. The responsibility is shared by the international community, and efforts to end proliferation must use international partnerships.

The Nuclear Security Summit and Proliferation Security Initiative are two programs initiated to build international relationships and encourage collaboration in countering weapons of mass destruction. Hersman said these programs have had a significant impact in disseminating information and creating cooperative partnerships.

Hersman said threats of weapons of mass destruction do not impact only one country or location, and the government should be vigilant in efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons.