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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union 3 Applicability of Biological Threat Reduction Approaches in the Former Soviet Union to Other Developing Countries Since 1998, the Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) has developed into a broadly based international program operating in seven countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU). As previously discussed, its overall objective is to reduce the likelihood of proliferation of materials, equipment, technologies, and expertise that could be used in the development or construction of biological weapons. This objective includes reducing the risk of bioterrorism. In 2008, BTRP received funding to explore the expansion of its activities to developing countries outside the FSU. This report, and particularly this chapter, is directed to such an expansion. In the FSU, BTRP has used a wide range of approaches spanning the security, scientific, public health, and agriculture fields, which have been designed to help prevent the proliferation of biological weapons. The budget for BTRP’s activities through Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 has been almost $800 million. The budget for FY 2009 is about $185 million. Ten million dollars from FY 2008 funds and a comparable amount from FY 2009 funds are to be directed to activities in developing countries beyond the FSU. Budget projections of the Department of Defense (DOD) show growth of BTRP to about $250 million annually by FY 2014. Expecting gradual expansion of activities beyond the FSU, DOD has estimated that about $180 million of the total BTRP budget through 2014 will be used to expand the program to other countries, primarily outside the FSU. Thus, according to these projections, the major geographic focus of BTRP will continue to be selected states of the FSU for the foreseeable future. In FY 2008, BTRP’s funds were devoted primarily to three categories of activities: (1) biosecurity and biosafety, (2) threat agent detection and response (TADR), and (3) cooperative biological research (CBR). The first and second categories included many construction projects to establish and renovate diag-
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union nostic facilities, a variety of training programs, and efforts to enhance laboratory and field investigation capabilities in order to improve surveillance capabilities. These activities will probably continue to command most of the available funds for the foreseeable future. CBR funds have supported both researchers in the FSU and U.S. collaborators. The funds have also been used to purchase equipment when needed by FSU participants for specific research projects and to upgrade laboratories in the FSU. Until FY 2008, funds were also devoted to activities in a previously existing category of dismantlement and conversion of facilities. These efforts had included redirection of three facilities in the FSU that produced pathogens and other materials that could be used for biological warfare activities. BTRP has completed its activities in this category. The future of BTRP within the FSU was considered in the October 2007 report.1 This report draws on the October 2007 report in discussing future BTRP activities while recognizing the many differences between operating in the FSU and in other regions. THE NEED FOR A SUSTAINED COMMITMENT TO NONPROLIFERATION As discussed in Chapter 1, the likelihood of bioterrorism attacks in developing countries outside the FSU is growing in unpredictable directions. Countering bioterrorism is highly complicated, requiring a wide-ranging defensive infrastructure. Many scenarios could be carried out exploiting the vulnerabilities found in almost every developing country. As emphasized in Chapter 1, tens of millions of dollars will be required for BTRP to have a significant impact on limiting proliferation of dangerous biological assets within, into, or out of even a handful of developing countries beyond the FSU. The problem is widespread, and activities to reduce some of the most important vulnerabilities are expensive. Few developing countries have major resources of their own to devote to countering the potential of bioterrorism. As will be discussed in Chapter 4, substantial international development assistance resources are being devoted to strengthening the capabilities of developing countries to control health and agriculture diseases. Of course, such activities will help in the prevention of and response to threats of bioterrorism. But in the FSU, BTRP—together with programs of several other U.S. 1 National Research Council Committee on Prevention of Proliferation of Biological Weapons. 2007. The Biological Threat Reduction Program of the Department of Defense: From Foreign Assistance to Sustainable Partnerships. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available online at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12005. In the current report this report is referred to as the “October 2007 report.”
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union departments—has more directly addressed vulnerabilities of bioterrorism concern. Such a focus should be one of the essential aspects of nonproliferation approaches in other countries as well. The U.S. commitment to biological nonproliferation activities focused on the developing countries outside the FSU during the next 5 years will be determined in significant measure by the size of BTRP’s budgetary commitment and the success of its activities. Given the magnitude of the threat, BTRP’s commitment for activities beyond the FSU should reach a robust level of prevention and response. At the same time, the planning and implementation of such activities should take into account issues raised throughout this report. BTRP has had considerable success in working with the governments of the states of the FSU to upgrade many aspects of biosecurity. Still, with the possible exception of Russia, none of the countries is well prepared to sustain on its own successful approaches that have been financed by BTRP. Therefore, adopting approaches to ensure sustainability of activities initiated with the support of BTRP should be a high priority both within the FSU and in other countries as well. THE UNIQUE ENVIRONMENT WITHIN THE FSU The predecessor program to BTRP, the Biological Weapons Proliferation Prevention Program, was initiated by DOD in 1998 at a time of heightened international concern over the possibility that biological weapons-related activities would be undertaken in the FSU. It was believed that such illegitimate activities could be undertaken by the Russian government or by individuals previously involved in the Soviet weapons program who might develop connections to criminal or terrorist organizations. The legacy of a robust Soviet biological weapons program loomed large, and the U.S. government considered that greater transparency at previously closed biological facilities in the FSU was a national security imperative. At the same time, the states of the FSU were in a downward economic spiral. This decline raised additional international concerns over the possibility that impoverished scientists would try to earn money through the unauthorized sale of biological assets that together with their expertise could lead to dangerous consequences. DOD’s initial efforts quickly focused on containment of those assets of greatest immediate concern to U.S. biosecurity specialists. Prompt attention was given to consolidating and strengthening security of pathogen collections. Redirection to peaceful purposes of research activities at former defense-related facilities and of individual weapon scientists was a priority. Also, monitoring the use of the results of research carried out in the FSU that could be deliberately or inadvertently diverted to inappropriate uses rather than internationally acceptable applications became a related priority, although this task was difficult to
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union carry out. Each type of redirection activity was to promote transparency as an important contribution to prevention of proliferation of biological weapons. The facilities of primary concern to the U.S. government included biological research and production centers that had histories of handling significant quantities of dangerous pathogens, which had been of interest to Soviet military authorities. These facilities were accustomed to extensive security procedures, including high fences and close screening of personnel. However, with the economic decline, security budgets were being reduced, and atrophy of effective security measures was apparent even within some of the most heavily guarded facilities. In short, the need for urgent action to prevent biological pathogens from falling into the hands of unauthorized personnel was widely recognized; and BTRP focused its efforts on obvious vulnerabilities, particularly at facilities where pathogens had been produced or handled under military contracts. At the same time, the U.S. government recognized new opportunities to engage highly talented former defense-oriented scientists in the FSU in research of considerable interest to the United States—research for biodefense purposes and for applications in improving public health, combating agricultural diseases, and advancing fundamental science. BTRP became the largest U.S. government program that supported such researchers in the FSU, where the pools of well-trained and experienced specialists with previous orientations toward defense activities were large, although their equipment was rapidly aging, facilities needed improved maintenance, and salaries had dipped to low levels. Also, the intake of young talent to pursue civilian-oriented activities at research and production facilities had nearly halted because of the severe budget decline. In short, many members of a large pool of underemployed scientists were searching for opportunities to increase their incomes with declining personal concern over how their talents would be used. No developing country outside the FSU has found itself in a comparable position involving (1) previous governmental leadership in developing biological weapons, (2) large and highly skilled pools of specialists with dual-use capabilities, and (3) a sudden shift from a stable, centrally planned economy to economic chaos as the transformation to market economies began. While South Africa established and then dismantled a biological weapons capability and may have residual capabilities of concern, it is an exception among developing countries.2 When BTRP began its activities and even today, the conditions in the FSU were and continue to be different from the environments encountered in developing countries outside the FSU. Tables 3-1 and 3-2 present striking differences in the characteristics of developing countries within and outside the FSU that are relevant to biosecurity. For example, the differences in literacy rates and availability of trained physicians are particularly great. 2 Purkitt, H., and S. Burgess. 2005. South Africa’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union TABLE 3-1 Biosecurity-related Development Characteristics of Selected FSU Countries Armenia Azerbaijan Georgia Kazakhstan Ukraine Uzbekistan Population in millions, 2007a 3.001 8.571 4.396 15.481 46.383 26.868 Gross national income per capita (U.S. $), 2007a 2,640 2,550 2,120 5,060 2,550 730 Annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth (percent), 2007a 14 19 12 8 7 10 Life expectancy at birth, 2006b 69 64 70 64 67 68 Adult literacy rate (percent of population age 15+), 2007a n/a 99.38 99.00 99.62 99.69 99.30 Total expenditure on health as percent of GDP, 2005c 5.40 3.90 8.60 3.90 7.00 5.00 Improved water source (percent of population with access), 2006b 98 78 99 96 97 88 Improved sanitation facilities (percent of urban population with access), 2006b 91 80 93 97 93 96 Physicians per 10,000 population, 2000-2006b 37 36 47 39 31 27 Persons employed in research and development, 2006c n/a 10,195 11,997 11,910 85,211 n/a Gross tertiary enrollment rate, 2006c,d n/a 14.81 38.20 51.18 72.78 9.80 Computers per 1,000 people, 2005c n/a 20 50 n/a 50 30 Internet users per 1,000 people, 2007a n/a 120 80 120 220 40 Exports of goods and services as percent of GDP, 2006b n/a 72.50 45.30 50.60 48.20 38.40 aThe World Bank Group World Development Indicators; www.worldbank.org. Accessed January 12, 2009. bWorld Health Statistics 2008; www.who.int/whosis/whostat/EN_WHS08_Full.pdf. Accessed January 12, 2009. cThe World Bank Knowledge for Development (K4D) Custom Scorecard; info.worldbank.org/etools/kam2/KAM_page3.asp?default=1. Accessed January 12, 2009. dThe ratio of total enrollment, regardless of age, to the population of the age group that officially corresponds to the level of education indicated.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union TABLE 3-2 Biosecurity-related Development Characteristics of Selected Countries Outside the FSU Democratic Republic of Congo Malaysia Mexico Morocco Pakistan South Africa Population in millions, 2007a 62.399 26.550 105.281 30.861 162.389 47.588 Gross national income per capita (U.S. $), 2007a 140 6,540 8,340 2,250 870 5,760 Annual gross domestic product growth (percent), 2007a 6 6 3 2 6 5 Life expectancy at birth, 2006b 47 72 74 72 63 51 Adult literacy rate (percent of population age 15+), 2007a n/a 91.90 92.43 55.58 54.89 88.00 Total expenditure on health as percentage of GDP, 2005c 4.20 4.20 6.40 5.30 2.10 8.70 Improved water source (percent of population with access), 2006b 46 99 95 83 90 93 Improved sanitation facilities (percent of urban population with access), 2006b 31 94 81 72 58 59 Physicians per 10,000 population, 2000-2006b 1 7 20 5 8 8 Persons employed in research and development, 2006c n/a 12,669 33,484 n/a 12,689 17,915 Gross tertiary enrollment rate, 2006c,d n/a 28.58 26.08 11.83 4.52 15.41 Computers per 1,000 people, 2005c n/a 220 140 20 10 80 Internet users per 1,000 people, 2007a n/a 560 220 240 110 80 Exports of goods and services as percent of GDP, 2006b n/a 117.10 31.90 37.80 15.50 29.10 aThe World Bank Group World Development Indicators; www.worldbank.org. Accessed January 12, 2009. bWorld Health Statistics 2008; www.who.int/whosis/whostat/EN_WHS08_Full.pdf. Accessed January 12, 2009. cThe World Bank Knowledge for Development (K4D) Custom Scorecard; info.worldbank.org/etools/kam2/KAM_page3.asp?default=1. Accessed January 12, 2009. dThe ratio of total enrollment, regardless of age, to the population of the age group that officially corresponds to the level of education indicated.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union At the same time, there are common characteristics when comparing opportunities for BTRP to achieve its objectives in the FSU with opportunities in other developing countries. Identified below are commonalities that deserve careful attention in this regard. In some cases, minor adjustments of BTRP approaches used in the FSU might be appropriate for deployment outside the FSU. In other cases, major modifications of these approaches are in order. In still other cases, BTRP’s approaches may not be appropriate; and in some instances, BTRP may not be welcomed by other governments that are concerned about an expanded U.S. military presence—in such situations, BTRP probably should remain on the sidelines for the near future. In any event, the achievements of BTRP to date provide a starting point for considering transportability of BTRP approaches developed in the FSU to other countries. The overall outcome of BTRP’s activities in any country should be a reduction in the risk from bioterrorism. Two important aspects of risk reduction are (1) a reduction in the likelihood that pathogens that are present in the country or introduced into the country will be diverted for nefarious purposes within the country or elsewhere, and (2) an enhanced capacity to detect and characterize outbreaks causing excessive levels of morbidity and mortality. As discussed in Chapter 2, to achieve these outcomes, steps are needed in almost every developing country to strengthen (1) the human resource base; (2) the policy framework, including enforcement of an appropriate regulatory approach; (3) the existing physical infrastructure for carrying out activities involving pathogens; and (4) the government’s commitment to nonproliferation. Discussed below are some of BTRP’s activities to these ends in the FSU. BTRP OBJECTIVES AND RESULTS BTRP’s available funds are currently focused primarily on achieving four principal objectives in the FSU, as follows: Prevent the sale, theft, diversion, or unintended proliferation of bioweapons-related materials, equipment, technology, and expertise through better control of access to biological pathogens and through greater transparency of research, surveillance, and related activities. Consolidate especially dangerous pathogens into safe, secure repositories at central reference laboratories (CRLs) and establish effective monitoring systems for ensuring appropriate use of these pathogens. Improve capabilities to detect, diagnose, and report bioterrorism attacks and potential biological pandemics through enhanced surveillance and improved investigations of disease outbreaks.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union Catalyze strategic research partnerships involving U.S. scientists from the public and private sectors.3 Several positive changes in five countries of the FSU where BTRP has been most active (Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan) were identified in the October 2007 report. Changes observed in that report that seem to be desired outcomes of BTRP programs that might be carried out in other areas of the world include the following: Transparency at important facilities with dual-use capabilities that had not been open to foreign specialists on a regular basis Sharing of local databases involving pathogens with international collaborators Improved biosecurity and biosafety programs at research and surveillance institutions, particularly with regard to consolidation and physical protection of pathogen strains Development of national regulations and related training programs concerning the safety and security of biological materials and good laboratory practices that meet international standards Construction and equipping of modern research, public health, and agricultural facilities where disease-related activities of interest to both local and international specialists are carried out Adoption by local institutions with responsibilities for controlling diseases of U.S.-style approaches to facility and project management, to fiscal accountability, and to inventory control Attraction and retention of highly talented young specialists to upgraded local facilities carrying out research and providing services in the fields of public health and agriculture Capabilities of local specialists to use effectively modern diagnostic and research equipment Enhanced disease surveillance and response capabilities that become an integral part of the national effort Participation in scientific conferences and training programs abroad by local specialists interested in infectious diseases who had not previously traveled abroad Publication by local scientists in peer-reviewed international journals of their disease-related research findings that demonstrate their capabilities to participate effectively in international scientific activities Enhanced quality of local research projects and technology transfer activities that build on the experience and expertise of participation in international collaboration 3 BTRP presentation to the committee, July 2008.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union At times, BTRP investments in the FSU have led to continuing international linkages among specialists based on friendships and common professional interests. These personal contacts help build mutual respect and trust necessary for successfully addressing technical issues with dual-use implications. They also provide important insights as to present and future scientific aspirations and intentions of foreign colleagues and their institutions in areas of national security interest. Finally, intergovernmental cooperation in the biological sciences and biotechnology, exemplified by BTRP activities, offers important opportunities for political and scientific leaders from the United States and partner countries to discuss common security, public health, agricultural, and scientific interests. Together they have new opportunities to develop complementary approaches for combating the threat of global terrorism. They should quickly recognize the overlaps between immediate security concerns and long-term international development priorities. APPROACHES TO EMPHASIZE IN OTHER DEVELOPING COUNTRIES A central theme of the October 2007 report was the importance of transforming BTRP from a Washington-directed program of foreign assistance to a genuinely collaborative program of sustained partnerships with governments that contribute substantially to the program. Of course, the governments of many poor countries are accustomed to assuming that any foreign funds coming into the country are foreign aid and that they should appear grateful. But if they can be convinced through both words and actions that BTRP wants them to be true partners in every step of developing and implementing cooperative programs, the path to success of BTRP will be wide and the likelihood of sustainability will be increased. Recommendation 3-1: As BTRP moves beyond the FSU, the theme of partnerships with counterpart organizations in host countries should be a guiding principle. Multifaceted Approach In recent years, BTRP has increasingly recognized the importance and benefits of a multifaceted approach to international engagement as an essential aspect for achieving overlapping biosecurity, public health, and agriculture objectives. Developing countries outside the FSU have little history of deliberate misuse of biological assets for weapons or for bioterrorism purposes. Some of their leaders are skeptical as to the benefit of diverting woefully inadequate national resources from well-established economic development priorities to
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union BOX 3-1 Strengthening Health Systems “Strengthening health systems may sound abstract and less important than specific disease control technologies. However, without health system strengthening, there will be no results.” SOURCE: World Bank. 2007. Healthy Development: The World Bank Strategy for Health, Nutrition, and Population Results, p. 5. Available online at siteresources.worldbank.org/HEALTHNUTRITIONANDPOPULATION/Resources/281627-1154048816360/HNPStrategyFINALApril302007.pdf. Accessed November 30, 2008. programs for preventing bioweapons proliferation. Therefore, a multifaceted approach that addresses their development priorities as well as the priorities of the international security community, and particularly BTRP priorities, has much more appeal than a narrow biosecurity agenda of activities. Very simply, they will have an incentive to embrace foreign investments if the systems that are established support their own health and agriculture priorities, both in the near term and in the long term. As previously noted, the BTRP approach has included not only enhancement of facility security but also jointly developed disease surveillance activities, collaborative research projects, implementation of biosafety procedures, and development of human resources. The near-term payoffs from investments in research and surveillance are difficult to measure. But in the longer term, they strengthen scientific capabilities and can be significant activities to help detect misuse of pathogens and to respond promptly to incidents resulting from misuse. As a primary example of responding to multiple biological threats, strengthening the entire health system is essential, as indicated in Box 3-1, although programs other than BTRP must carry most of the burden in this regard. The wide variety of recommendations throughout the reports of the World Bank reflects the importance of a multifaceted approach to upgrading biosecurity capabilities. This approach is underscored in Recommendation 2-1 of Chapter 2 (page 50). Country Assessments and Strategic Plans During the past several years, BTRP has developed “Science Plans” to document and clarify its approach in countries in the FSU where it has programs. An elaboration of this general concept is applicable to other countries where BTRP plans to invest its resources.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union Initially, BTRP focused in large measure on targets-of-opportunity. For example, if an important facility was not well secured and upgrades were of immediate interest to a partner government, BTRP would invest in physical upgrades. If an important research group had demonstrated a capability to obtain interesting research results, BTRP would support the researchers. If virulent pathogen strains were being used, BTRP would support biosafety training. This approach provided good entry points into different countries while addressing significant problems. In the long run, however, it might have been more effective to launch activities within the framework of more comprehensive nationwide analyses. Recommendation 3-2: BTRP should develop in cooperation with each partner government a Strategic Plan that describes the security situation and particularly vulnerabilities relevant to biological assets in the country, disease burdens and trends, local capabilities to detect and respond to outbreaks, and plans for cooperative threat reduction activities within the context of national plans and capabilities of both countries. Development of country-specific Strategic Plans should begin during the process of BTRP’s selection of countries for engagement. The first step should be multidisciplinary countrywide assessments carried out jointly with partner governments, particularly with the ministries of health and agriculture. Also, ministries of science and education should be involved, given their portfolios of direct relevance to BTRP interests. Of course, achieving coordination of these fragmented interests will not be easy. In many developing countries, such ministries are often so weak that they have difficulties with their own responsibilities, let alone with interfacing with other ministries. While mutual acceptance of these assessments will probably require resolution of controversial issues, they nevertheless should be prepared without delay—that is, in months, not in years, which has too often been the case in addressing nationwide issues in the FSU. The plans should be regularly updated. The Strategic Plans should have several characteristics that have not always been embraced by BTRP in the FSU, including the following: A Strategic Plan should be jointly developed with organizations designated by the partner government. A Strategic Plan should be consistent with U.S. government-wide biosecurity and related objectives in the country. The plan should, of course, reflect host-country priorities while being consistent with BTRP’s interests and capabilities. A Needs Assessment (see Box 3-2) that is jointly developed should be an important component of the plan. It should analyze current and potential
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union even more stretched. Therefore, a large percentage of BTRP’s engagement efforts probably should be devoted to training young specialists and then providing incentives for them to find key scientific positions in local institutions, as discussed in Chapter 2. BTRP has encountered human resource-related problems in the FSU. Several training programs devoted to career reorientation have been undertaken with considerable success. However, the human resource issue is different in the FSU because at the time BTRP launched its efforts there was a large pool of underemployed scientists who, after relatively brief training programs, were able to operate effectively in modern laboratories and at other facilities. Of course, there is now great concern over how to replace this older cadre of specialists as they retire, but there has been time for transition. Also, the primary and secondary school systems in the FSU, despite a decrease in quality in recent years, are still much stronger than systems in almost all developing countries outside the FSU. As recommended in Chapter 2, BTRP should be prepared to support a variety of education programs and related training programs in the countries of interest for an extended period of time. To the extent that future training programs can incorporate experience from the already developed programs in the FSU, these new programs should help expand and strengthen the global biosecurity network. BTRP’s Chain of Command BTRP’s projects in the FSU have often been delayed throughout the DOD chain of command that has been established for guiding the process, coupled with stringent DOD guidelines for executing projects. In 2004, at least 27 months were required by DOD from the development of the concept for a research project to the signing of the contract with the appropriate institution in the FSU to initiate the project. Fortunately, in most cases, this time line has been substantially reduced, but it is still too long. For all BTRP activities, the overarching policy is approved by senior policy officials within DOD, who then instruct the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program policy office as to appropriate approaches. That office in turn tasks the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to implement specific activities. DTRA has several levels of responsible officials, and they must in turn fill in details of the tasks that are being assigned. BTRP then normally turns the tasks over to integrating contractors, which typically employ subcontractors. Finally, the tasks reach the specialists who are responsible for on-the-ground activities. Turnover among these specialists is often frequent, on occasion resulting in misunderstandings and failures to recognize precedents that could be helpful. The lengthy separation between the DOD policy officials who initially
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union design the tasks and the implementers has caused difficult program situations. Instructions are sometimes delayed or must be revisited because of changes on the ground. In dealing with countries outside the FSU that have only a handful of interlocutors who are experienced with foreign providers of goods and services, BTRP should be more adept in reacting promptly with more flexibility in embracing good project ideas. Otherwise, excessive correspondence concerning BTRP may remain for months in in-boxes of a few overworked local officials who are the only empowered decision makers. Given likely sensitivities concerning DOD programs in some developing countries, misunderstandings and false expectations should be avoided to the fullest extent possible. While DOD has well-established management procedures for drawing on contractors as implementers of programs, the procedures developed for BTRP have been unnecessarily complex and too Washington-centric. DOD should of course ensure that requirements are satisfied, but nevertheless DOD needs to reduce the number of intermediaries between approvers of plans and implementers of projects. Recommendation 3-7: DOD should streamline its chain of command for implementing BTRP and simplify the operational process within DOD to enhance efficiency, reduce misunderstandings, and increase transparency in U.S. intentions toward the host governments. Given the many demands on senior DOD officials with responsibilities for BTRP, a strengthening of their staff capabilities devoted to BTRP would be particularly helpful in this regard. Visa Challenges Obtaining visas for travel by U.S. and foreign officials and specialists has been and will continue to be a problem in promoting meaningful engagement activities. Usually the reason for visa problems is late application for the visa. Of course, there are at times also denials for security and political reasons. The visa issue deserves attention from the outset of BTRP’s involvement in additional countries, but there must be a two-way street. Influencing U.S. visa decisions as well as partner-country decisions on visas for U.S. travelers on a case-by-case basis will not be easy. Recommendation 3-8: BTRP should give priority to adequate advanced planning in order to ease visa problems for travel between the United States and partner countries in both directions.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union Metrics and Evaluation Comprehensive metrics to evaluate the success of BTRP activities are in the early stage of development. In the past, BTRP has focused on collecting output data, for example, the number of facilities that have received security upgrades, the number of trainees in various aspects of biosecurity, the number of former weapon scientists involved in redirection efforts, the number of sustainable peaceful jobs created, the number of collaborative research products that reach the markets, and the number of joint publications in internationally recognized journals. But the metrics have not gone to the essence of the program, namely, “To what extent has the likelihood of containing outbreaks of endemic and emerging diseases and of the related terrorism aspects been increased?”5 BTRP is working toward having indicators of “outcomes” of the program as well as indicators of “outputs.” This effort responds to long-standing instructions from the Office of Management and Budget to address both types of results. Now that BTRP has become the largest component of DOD’s CTR Program, increasing attention is focused on the results it is achieving. As an interim step, BTRP is expanding its reporting to Congress from one indicator of accomplishments to four indicators. The original indicator is the number of diagnostic laboratories that are built and equipped. The three new indicators are the number of cooperative biological research projects that have been completed, the number of pathogen repositories that are secured, and the number of disease surveillance networks that have become electronically operational. BTRP is also developing more-specific metrics for meeting program objectives and requirements. For example, an objective could be improvements in biosafety, and a metric could be positive changes in the biosafety policy of the government. An objective could be improved data sharing, and a metric could be the number of recipients of certain types of data. In this effort, BTRP should consider the work of the World Health Organization, which uses timeliness and completeness of data reporting in its metrics, and others. Box 3-7 presents an evaluation framework being developed by BTRP. It should be expanded to address other major items, such as human resources, national policies, and physical infrastructure, taking into account related efforts through DOD’s Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System and other organizations, such as the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and CDC.6 Overall, the measurement effort should be strongly encour- 5 For related observations on metrics, see National Research Council Committee on Prevention of Proliferation of Biological Weapons. 2007. P. 62 in The Biological Threat Reduction Program of the Department of Defense: From Foreign Assistance to Sustainable Partnerships. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available online at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12005. 6 See, for example, the discussion of the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to develop models for assessing the risk (threat, vulnerability, consequences) of bioterrorism set forth
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union BOX 3-7 BTRP Draft Framework for Development of Metrics Biological safety/security and laboratory practices are sustainable and consistent with internationally accepted best practices. U.S. select agents are consolidated and secured. Partner nations demonstrate sustained and transparent capability for surveillance, detection, reporting, and response to bioterrorism events and suspected disease outbreaks. Scientists working with U.S. select agents are engaged in peaceful, transparent, and sustainable activities. Biological weapon infrastructure, equipment, and material are eliminated. SOURCE: BTRP, November 2008. aged within BTRP. The International Health Regulations may also provide approaches that BTRP should consider adopting (see Appendix H). In a related effort, BTRP is conducting a field evaluation of the effectiveness of TADR in Georgia. The purpose is to provide guidance on fine-tuning TADR. This evaluation includes demonstrating whether and how TADR recognizes extremely dangerous pathogens, promptly initiates communications from the primary health care or livestock service provider who reports an outbreak to the national level, and effectively executes other important aspects of TADR. Thus, the evaluation is to assess the effectiveness of protocols for epidemiological response and for sample collection and transportation. Finally, it addresses laboratory confirmation procedures at the regional and national levels. Inferring BTRP’s impact on a nation’s security from such evaluations, however, is the most difficult task. Such a task involves understanding the security situation when BTRP entered the scene (the baseline) and the unique contributions of BTRP to reducing biological threats. One approach is for BTRP to support continuing assessments of BTRP impacts by both a group of specialists within BTRP in Washington and a counterpart group of local specialists in the host country focused on risk reduction. They could develop either common or competing methodologies and then compare results of their assessments. Their different insights as to how BTRP can most effectively enhance security on a broad basis in the country would be of considerable interest. in National Research Council Committee on Methodological Improvements to the Department of Homeland Security’s Biological Risk Analysis. 2008. Department of Homeland Security Bioterrorism Risk Assessment: A Call for Change. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available online at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12206.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union In short, as BTRP expands into other countries, this concern with BTRP impacts on reducing the threat of bioterrorism deserves greater emphasis. Evaluation efforts should begin from the outset of BTRP involvement in a country, because after projects are completed, it will be too late to examine reliable indicators of risk reduction as a result of the projects. At the same time, the current midcourse review of the effectiveness of the TADR system in Georgia is a step in the right direction, even though the assumption that TADR is an appropriate approach is not being challenged by the external evaluators—a shortcoming that should be corrected in the future. Recommendation 3-9: BTRP should continue to develop improved metrics that will help guide evaluations of the impacts of BTRP and provide information for setting priorities for activities designed to reduce proliferation of biological weapons as well as related risks from naturally occurring contagious disease agents. SPECIAL CHALLENGES Political Aspects of a DOD-BTRP Presence in Developing Countries The United States is often criticized as seeking military domination throughout the world. Nevertheless, BTRP has been welcomed as a useful and necessary program in many countries of the FSU. Local interest in BTRP activities has been driven in large measure by financial benefits and also in some countries by a local desire to have strong U.S. support of newly independent governments to help balance the nearby Russian military presence with roots into the past. This latter type of political-military incentive to welcome BTRP is not present in many parts of the developing world. Indeed, there is a major issue of whether BTRP should help develop public health and agriculture roles in countries that are not accustomed to a highly visible U.S. military presence and have no history with biological weapons. At the same time, DOD’s record in responding to natural disasters, in conducting research on tropical diseases, and in engaging in military-to-military contacts with dozens of developing countries is impressive. The issue is not whether BTRP should be engaged outside the FSU. For the reasons set forth in Chapter 1, it should be. The issue is how BTRP should be engaged. The following suggestions are offered in this regard: BTRP should have a deliberate but realistic timetable when initiating engagement activities. It should recognize the importance of having the local authorities understand the benefits that will be derived over time from the program and thereby buying into the program, keeping in mind that developing-country governments are inundated with offers of foreign assistance from
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union much larger donors, such as the international development banks. Similarly, BTRP should be realistic in developing timetables for carrying out projects. The partner governments and local specialists will undoubtedly have to go through a lengthy education period concerning BTRP objectives and approaches. But excessive BTRP control over activities in the name of efficiency could degrade the likelihood of sustainability. In short, prompt delivery of promised goods and services should be balanced with assurances that they will be used effectively in a manner consistent with host-country long-term interests. Whenever possible, BTRP should partner with civilian organizations that have strong health and agriculture reputations in the developing countries, such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, the regional development banks, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and CDC. With the exception of BTRP activities in war-torn countries where U.S. military forces are omnipresent, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, BTRP should have a relatively modest presence in the countries of interest. This means that BTRP should have the clear objective of not only undertaking specific projects but also catalyzing international interest in complementing BTRP activities with activities of other organizations. Finally, BTRP should not hesitate to change plans to engage in a country when the government clearly indicates a lack of interest in such engagement.7 Recommendation 3-10: BTRP should take into account possible local concerns about a large presence of DOD activities in the countries where it engages. Joint projects with other organizations playing important roles and an emphasis on responding to local initiatives will be helpful in this regard. Threat Assessment and Response DOD has indicated a strong interest in extending the TADR system that is being developed and deployed in the FSU to countries around the world. The system is to improve biosecurity, and it has been described by BTRP as having the following characteristics: 7 The plan of Africa Command (AFRICOM) to locate its headquarters in Africa is of interest. The plan was poorly received by most African governments, which were not widely consulted in advance of the announcement of the plan. Civic groups across the continent opposed what they viewed as a permanent U.S. military presence in Africa targeted on Africa’s natural resources. See Smith, G. E. 2008. In search of sustainable security: linking national security, human security, and collective security to protect America and our world. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress. Available online at www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/pdf/sustainable_security1.pdf. At the same time, AFRICOM has a staff of 16 medical personnel under the command’s surgeon. They are focused on the health of military personnel, but its leadership has expressed interest to committee staff in assisting with BTRP, which has not been on AFRICOM’s agenda.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union Nationwide surveillance system Close to real-time detection, reporting, and response Integrated reporting of human health and veterinary health, including vectors Tracking of diagnostic tests, results, and stored specimens Electronic integrated diseases surveillance system Diagnostic laboratory system Standard and molecular methods that minimize culture volumes U.S. biosafety level 2 (BSL-2), except for central reference laboratory (BSL-3) The key TADR components include the following: Central reference laboratory (BSL-3 capabilities), where human and veterinary facilities are combined and a national response team is headquartered (see below) BSL-2 diagnostic and detection laboratories at existing human and veterinary laboratories for disease surveillance and epidemiological analysis, case investigations involving sample transport capabilities, and disease detection and diagnostics by molecular and classic methods Region-level support stations for disease surveillance and epidemiological analysis, case investigations, and disease reporting by veterinarians and epidemiologists Some aspects of this system are obviously important for many developing countries. But there may be competing systems in various stages of development in different countries. Therefore, some components of the TADR system may be appropriate for some countries, and other components, for other countries. In addition to questions as to TADR’s compatibility with other surveillance systems in various stages of development, several concerns about the system were expressed in the October 2007 report and have not yet been fully addressed by BTRP. How will the TADR network be sustained after BTRP completes its participation in development and operation of the network? This means there must be substantial buy-in from a wide range of local officials and specialists with access to financial resources. The focus of TADR should be broadened from a limited number of disease agents, classes of agents, and syndromes of interest to DOD for proliferation purposes to a broader range of agents that are of greater interest from human health and agriculture perspectives. It makes little sense to have differ-
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union ent systems for different disease agents in the same country, as noted earlier in this chapter. Automatic transmission through the TADR information systems of all data that are collected by physicians, laboratory specialists, and other participants in the program will result in false alarms. Raw data are most useful at the national and regional levels, where such data influence budget allocations. Local specialists should be trained to screen the data before they are entered into the international component of the system to reduce the false alarm rate. BTRP’s haste to immediately have all of the data in the United States should be tempered with reality of the likely significance, analysis, and use of the data. Data recipients in the United States that are BTRP partners should be prepared to accept and analyze the data as an important component of their overall missions. In the absence of such interest, a long-term program to send all raw data to the United States makes little sense. Recommendation 3-11: The design and operation of the TADR system should be carefully reviewed by a well-qualified, independent organization that has not been directly involved in the design or establishment of the system before BTRP advocates transportability of the components of the system to other countries beyond the FSU. This review should emphasize the risk-reduction potential of TADR, including its ability to strengthen local response to disease outbreaks and indications that TADR is achieving this goal. Central Reference Laboratories A special concern is the plan of BTRP to construct within the TADR system central reference laboratories with BSL-3 capabilities in one or more countries of the FSU (at a cost of up to $90 million each, plus operational costs of $5-10 million annually) or in some cases BSL-2 laboratories. Preliminary DOD plans call for such facilities in other countries as well. CRLs are to serve as national centers for research and surveillance systems and will include consolidated repositories for dangerous pathogen strains.8 The unanswered questions include the following: 8 There is considerable interest in some developing countries in BSL-3 and even BSL-4 laboratories. At the same time, there are uncertainties as to current safety designations of some of the high-containment laboratories by specialists from the developing countries. According to fragmentary information available to the committee, there is one BSL-4 laboratory operating in South Africa and two BSL-4 laboratories operating in India. As for BSL-3 laboratories, there are three in Malaysia, three in Mexico, two in Bangladesh, seven in Indonesia, five in Thailand, and 16 in India. (This information was compiled from committee field visits and from a presentation by Dr. Nicoletta Previsani on WHO’s [World Health Organization] Biosafety and Laboratory Biosecurity delivered
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union Will there be enough demand for use of the facilities to justify the expense of constructing, maintaining, and operating them? Is there enough local talent to adequately staff the facilities without diverting specialists from equally important assignments in other institutions? Will there be adequate safeguards to ensure that if the host government undergoes significant political changes that lead to an estrangement with the United States that the facilities will not be used for nefarious purposes? Would it be more appropriate to construct regional rather than national facilities, given the uncertain demand for their usage, the human resource issues, the expense, and the need for international assurance that they will not be misused over the long term? Recommendation 3-12: Before BTRP begins planning construction of CRLs outside the FSU, it should resolve issues concerning the need, location, operations, and international transparency in the long term regarding the facilities to which it has committed in the FSU. Advanced Technologies Most developing countries are not prepared to adopt advanced technologies such as computer-based, automated disease surveillance systems. Also, unfamiliar high-technology approaches that could be beyond the reach of local specialists might be viewed as a form of U.S. technological imperialism. This does not mean that advanced technologies should not be deployed in developing countries when the circumstances are appropriate. But traditional ways of addressing disease problems should be given careful consideration. When appropriate, the latter should be incorporated into technologically upgraded approaches. Recommendation 3-13: BTRP should refrain from advocating high-technology approaches that may be inappropriate in low-technology environments. CONCLUSION In summary, the risk of bioterrorism being rooted in developing countries is too great for BTRP not to be among the leaders in addressing the threat on a broad basis. Since the late 1990s, BTRP has had unique experiences in working with states of the FSU that are at various levels of development. Much of this at the Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of Experts at Geneva, Switzerland, August 18-22, 2008, and available online at www.bwpp.org/2008MX/documents/PresentationWHO20080819.pdf.) A more complete survey would undoubtedly indicate the presence of many more BSL-3 laboratories throughout the developing countries.
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Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense’s Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union experience seems to be readily transferable to developing countries beyond the FSU. Such experience should be brought to bear in a variety of development settings as an important component of overall U.S. efforts to reduce the likelihood of bioterrorism throughout the world. At the same time, BTRP should recognize that other international or local organizations themselves may be better positioned, better equipped, or both to upgrade specific biosecurity weaknesses that deserve prompt attention. Also, BTRP should ensure that its activities are carried out within the framework of the overall U.S. government approach to biological threat reduction, including the selection of countries and problems within countries that need attention. Several of the recommendations in this chapter are designed to broaden the approach of BTRP from a narrow focus on specific pathogens, and indeed only on agents that cause human and animal diseases, to the broader science and technology agendas of developing countries, including science and technology policies, higher education, and improvement of research. Casting this wider net should reveal an array of opportunities both for BTRP and for the broader U.S. and international communities to make meaningful contributions to enhancing biosecurity in developing countries. BTRP should not become involved in all situations that need prompt attention, and particularly those that are a more logical focus of attention of other organizations that also have access to necessary resources. BTRP may be able to address such situations faster, more comprehensively, and with more expertise than other organizations, but the biosecurity problems are so numerous throughout the world that BTRP should not hesitate to let other interested organizations take the lead when possible.
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