|Bio-defense Task Force Works to Ensure Survivability, Operability|
Bio-defense Task Force Works to Ensure Survivability, Operability
By Tech. Sgt. Scott Elliott, Air Force Print News.
Washington D.C. -- (AFPN) October 8, 2002 -- The ability to not just survive a biological attack, but to quickly rebound and take the fight back to the enemy, is the focus of a multifunctional task force directed by the Air Force chief of staff.
Headed by the air and space operations directorate in the Pentagon, the Bio-Defense Task Force is chartered to identify biological warfare threats and defense capabilities and shortfalls. It also develops strategies and tactics for use both overseas and in homeland defense.
Although the task force was officially chartered on Aug. 1, the threat is not new.
"We know that (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons on at least a couple of occasions," said Brig. Gen. Robert L. Smolen, director for nuclear and counterproliferation. "Obviously, with what's happening in the world today, we're concerned about what biological and chemical weapons could be out there, and how we would go about operating after we had survived an attack."
And that, Smolen said, is the key -- being able to fly and fight after an attack.
"We have to be able to operate," he said. "Unlike other services, where a ship can sail away or a tank can go around (a contaminated area), we can't move an airstrip.
"With that concept in mind, we are looking at things that will allow us to not only survive, because we certainly don't want to lose anyone, but (also) to be able to jump right back into the fray as quickly as we can."
While the task force is chaired by operations, other key members include the Air Force surgeon general's office and the Air Force directorate for installations and logistics.
"With the help of the medical community, which is doing a lot of research from the biological standpoint, and the long-standing experience (installations and logistics) has on the chemical side, we believe that if we can survive and operate efficiently, we can deter the enemy," Smolen said.
The task force is also working with outside agencies, such as the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
"We're taking advantage of some of the best minds in the country, who are thinking of different scenarios and what-if kinds of things," the general said. "We feel pretty good about the fact that we're engaged and making progress."
The key goal of the 120-day task force is to develop a prototype base-level biological defense plan that focuses on current capabilities, Smolen said.
"We'll be doing the best we can with currently fielded equipment," he said. "In addition, we'll work to identify gaps in current capabilities and make recommendations to improve biological warfare capability in the Air Force."
There is no current cure-all for every biological weapon out there, he added. But there are great minds at work in finding them.
"We haven't figured out, yet, what the magic shot or magic pill may be," Smolen said. "Until we do, we want to give every airman the absolute best chance to survive (a biological attack), and then turn around and take the fight right back to the enemy to make them wish they'd never started this thing. "That's really our best course of action -- (to) keep an enemy from using the stuff to begin with," he said. "If they see that using biological weapons will not be a significant detriment to us, then they may be a lot less likely to use them."