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Ataxia: The Chemical and Biological Terrorism Threat

Ataxia: The Chemical and Biological Terrorism Threat

Source: Stimson Center releases major research report on chemical and biological terrorism. Press Release, 27 October 2000. Study Analyzes Threat of Unconventional Terrorism and Assesses Front-line Preparedness.

Washington, DC – On October 25th, the Stimson Center’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project released Ataxia: The Chemical and Biological Terrorism Threat and the US Response. Based on more than 135 interviews with first responders in 33 cities and 25 states across the country, the comprehensive study debunks the myths surrounding the threat of unconventional terrorism and critiques the federal government’s programs to prepare American cities to cope with attacks involving chemical or biological weapons.

Ataxia examines the series of terrorism preparedness programs that followed in the wake of Aum Shinrikyo’s March 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo. The report calls on the federal government to reassess its emphasis on certain initiatives and shift resources to strengthen other segments of America’s preparedness infrastructure.

Authored primarily by Dr. Amy E. Smithson, Stimson Center Senior Associate, along with Research Associate Leslie-Anne Levy, Ataxia also describes the likely response that would unfold in US cities if a large-scale chemical incident or disease outbreak were to occur and offers pragmatic ideas from front-line officials on ways to improve local readiness to respond to such disasters. According to Smithson, "The bulk of the resources put toward preparedness should be going to cities, where lives can be saved, not being swallowed up inside Washington, DC’s beltway."

One of the original architects of the US government’s preparedness programs, Senator Pete Domenici (R—New Mexico), offered the following comment:

"I congratulate the Stimson Center on its no nonsense approach and detailed analysis of the gaps in our past efforts and current capabilities. This report offers several innovative approaches to addressing shortfalls in our domestic preparedness efforts. Furthermore, I believe it draws some very sensible linkages between the need for these capabilities, whether or not the first responders involved are addressing a chemical accident, an infectious disease impervious to available antidotes, or a terrorist attack with chemical or biological agents."

Dr. Smithson and Ms. Levy are available to answer questions about the report, which is posted in its entirety on the Stimson Center website. The publication is also available on CD-ROM.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).