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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pentagon Finishing Plans for Anti-WMD Units

The U.S. Defense Department concept of operations for new units trained to track and neutralize weapons of mass destruction should be finished in a matter of months, Inside the Pentagon reported yesterday (see GSN, July 20).

Details are being finalized on the units’ anticipated capabilities and deployment locations, along with the number of teams that would be established, according to Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, head of U.S. Strategic Command.

The teams are expected to be a component of the Pentagon’s “Concept Plan 8099 for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction,” a defense source said. The document has not yet been approved. It was not known whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would sign off on the plan before his resignation becomes effective.

The Pentagon seeks to strengthen nonproliferation, counterproliferation and consequence management of weapons of mass destruction, according to Inside the Pentagon. The teams would boost counterproliferation efforts, which involve elimination of unconventional weapons possessed by enemy nations or nonstate groups.

There is “a focus on our ability … to go out and find it, close on it and eliminate it,” Cartwright said. “That’s the higher end of this activity.”

Locating WMD material is a “challenge,” he said. “It’s not something that you go, ‘Oh, that’s a bioweapons,’ as you walk down the street. … These are not things that you’re (going to) sense easily.”

The difficulty of locating this material is mixed into questions that have yet to be answered in planning the new teams. These include determining the right combination of service people and scientists, access to experts, and whether those experts need to be on-site to make assessments of materials.

The speed at which the units would have to reach sites of WMD activity around the world also will be addressed in the plan, Cartwright said.

“How quickly do you have to … close them? Is it OK to do it in a day, or do you need to be able to do this in hours of minutes?” he said. If it is the latter, “that means you base them forward in some way, or you change the tools you give the team.”

The Pentagon is also considering increasing the capabilities of allied nations to detect weapons of mass destruction inside their borders, Cartwright said. That could include providing detection equipment or helping with border security (Sebastian Sprenger, Inside the Pentagon, Nov. 30).
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