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Supporting Discussion

There is another problem regarding the WMD threat that does not seem to garner

much attention. It is a problem that can be termed generality of preparation and planned

response. Many assume that because the WMD threat is generally accepted as one

category of asymmetric warfare, the associated preparations and responses also fit into

one category. The reality is somewhat different. Nuclear, radiological, chemical, and

biological hazards each present their own set of challenges. They do not neatly fit into

one basket. For example, an infectious disease such as small pox possesses a relatively

long incubation period and presents a completely different set of responses than a quick

acting nerve agent such a sarin gas. The same point could even be made when

comparing some of the traditionally lumped together NBC threats within their own

group. Many agents in their own category do not fit nicely together in terms of their own

particular set of responses. Symptoms and associated response to a nonpersistent nerve

agent for example vary greatly from those of a persistent blister agent.

The challenges obviously vary greatly in terms of post-event management. But

they also require their own distinctly different set of threat assessments, preparation,

specialization, training, and policy. One of the premier US experts on infectious

diseases, Michael T. Osterholm, argues that because of this lumping together of the

WMD threat into one basket, the current US response efforts are inherently flawed.3 Any

divergence in policy and planning to effectively deal with the combined WMD threat

would therefore require an even greater degree of integration of effort. Specialization is


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