Chemical and Biological Defense

Coordination of Nonmedical Chemical and Biological R&D Programs Gao ID: NSIAD-99-160 August 16, 1999

Since the Persian Gulf War, Congress has raised concerns about the adequacy of the technology used by the military to detect, identify, prepare for, and protect troops against chemical and biological weapons. Federal research and development efforts to produce nonmedical chemical and biological defense technology have expanded considerably in recent years. The President's fiscal year 2000 budget request includes more than $10 billion to combat terrorism, according to the White House; nearly $1.4 billion is earmarked for programs targeting terrorist threats from chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons--an amount that exceeds the funding for military programs to counter chemical and biological threats. This report examines the coordination of federal research and development efforts to develop nonmedical technology related to chemical and biological defense. GAO (1) identifies federal programs that conduct nonmedical chemical and biological defense-related research and development and (2) describes the existing mechanisms for coordinating these programs.

GAO noted that: (1) four federal programs that fund R&D of nonmedical CB defense technologies are: (a) Department of Defense's (DOD) Chemical and Biological Defense Program; (b) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Biological Warfare Defense Program; (c) Department of Energy's (DOE) Chemical and Biological Nonproliferation Program; and (d) Counterterror Technical Support Program conducted by the Technical Support Working Group; (2) all of these programs pursue R&D ranging from applied research to prototype development; (3) two of these programs, the Chemical and Biological Defense Program and Biological Warfare Defense Program, develop technologies primarily for military warfighting applications; (4) the other two programs develop CB defense technologies primarily to assist civilians responding to terrorist incidents; (5) the formal and informal program coordination mechanisms may not ensure that potential overlaps, gaps, and opportunities for collaboration are addressed; (6) coordinating mechanisms lack information on prioritized user needs, validated CB defense equipment requirements, and how programs relate R&D projects to these needs; (7) in particular, domestic preparedness needs are specified with significantly less detail than military needs; (8) furthermore, two programs--those in DARPA and DOE--do not formally utilize user requirements in planning their R&D goals; (9) more detailed information about user needs, validated CB defense equipment requirements, and how user needs relate to R&D projects may allow coordination mechanisms to better assess whether overlaps, gaps, and opportunities for collaboration exist; (10) agency officials are aware of the deficiencies in the existing coordination mechanisms and some have initiated additional informal contacts in response; and (11) informal coordination between DOD and DOE has been particularly active.

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