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American Biodefense

American Biodefense: How Dangerous Ideas about Biological Weapons Shape National Security

Frank L. Smith
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    American Biodefense
    Book Description:

    Biological weapons have threatened U.S. national security since at least World War II. Historically, however, the U.S. military has neglected research, development, acquisition, and doctrine for biodefense. Following September 11 and the anthrax letters of 2001, the United States started spending billions of dollars per year on medical countermeasures and biological detection systems. But most of this funding now comes from the Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Department of Defense. Why has the U.S. military neglected biodefense and allowed civilian organizations to take the lead in defending the country against biological attacks? InAmerican Biodefense, Frank L. Smith III addresses this puzzling and largely untold story about science, technology, and national security.

    Smith argues that organizational frames and stereotypes have caused both military neglect and the rise of civilian biodefense. In the armed services, influential ideas about kinetic warfare have undermined defense against biological warfare. The influence of these ideas on science and technology challenges the conventional wisdom that national security policy is driven by threats or bureaucratic interests. Given the ideas at work inside the U.S. military, Smith explains how the lessons learned from biodefense can help solve other important problems that range from radiation weapons to cyber attacks.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5516-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acronyms
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. American Biodefense, from Boston to Baghdad
    (pp. 1-12)

    General George Washington faced a serious problem. It was the winter of 1776, less than a year after he assumed command of the Continental Army outside Boston, and his siege against British forces inside the city was being frustrated by smallpox. Not only was this disease rampant in Boston, but British forces were inoculated against it and reportedly conducting biological warfare by spreading smallpox to impede the Continental Army. Even worse, Washington was receiving news of costly losses in Canada, where “smallpox had reached epidemic proportions in the American expeditionary force and severely compromised its ability to maintain the siege...

  6. [1] Science and Technology for National Security: Threats, Interests, and Ideas
    (pp. 13-35)

    Advanced technology plays a defining role in what has been called the “American way of war.”¹ Nuclear weapons, the Internet, satellite navigation, drones, and countless other examples highlight how much US national security depends on technology and, in turn, how much the military influences the state of the art. Not only does the military help create scientific knowledge, supplying innovation by researching and developing new applications, it also provides a market, driving demand when the armed services acquire advanced technology. And the military is not alone. Alongside the Department of Defense, civilian agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security,...

  7. [2] Stereotypical Neglect of Military Research, Development, and Acquisition for Biodefense
    (pp. 36-70)

    Science and technology infuse almost every aspect of biodefense, from the drugs that treat infection and the sensors that detect pathogens to the masks and decontamination equipment that limit exposure after an attack. So how can we best understand the creation and acquisition of this science and technology by the US military? Was the Soviet BW threat the determining factor during the Cold War, for instance, or did the armed services’ bureaucratic interests in budget and autonomy dominate biodefense? What influence, if any, did the kinetic frame and nonkinetic stereotypes have on the supply and demand for biological facts and...

  8. [3] Fatal Assumptions: Military Doctrine
    (pp. 71-101)

    Doctrine defines how a military will fight—at least in theory—to support various political goals, including the goal of national security. According to Posen, for example, military doctrine is the component of grand strategy that defines (1) what military means will be used, and (2) how those means will be employed.¹ Doctrine is therefore fundamental to understanding force posture and military operations, which, in turn, affect the probability and outcome of war itself.

    In addition to its effects on war and peace, military doctrine is also intimately involved with science and technology. This is particularly true when viewed from...

  9. [4] An Unlikely Sponsor? The Rise of Civilian Biodefense
    (pp. 102-127)

    Biological weapons and biodefense were widely regarded as military issues throughout the Cold War, even though they were misunderstood and subsequently neglected inside the DoD. The kinetic frame and non-kinetic stereotypes help explain this neglect, but an important part of the puzzle is thus far unexplained because most funding for biodefense now comes from civilian organizations rather than traditional military sponsors. Depending on how you count, the DoD spent about $1.5 billion on biodefense in 2013, while civilian organizations—including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection...

  10. Biodefense and Beyond: The Influence of Ideas on National Security
    (pp. 128-138)

    The history of American biodefense is at least as complex as the science and technology involved, especially since artifacts like vaccines and detection systems are shaped by social and political forces at least as much as they shape security policy. Nevertheless, the ideas at work inside the DoD and HHS explain many of the decisions and outcomes that define this history, particularly military neglect and the rise of civilian biodefense. At least three major findings stand out, each of which warrants review before I consider their broader implications. First, biological weapons do not conform to the military’s assumptions and heuristics...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 139-184)
  12. Index
    (pp. 185-192)