Thursday, August 4, 2011

HR 2764 Introduced – WMD Intelligence

Earlier this week Rep. Meehan (R, PA), joined by three Republican and two Democratic colleagues, introduced HR 2764, the WMD Intelligence and Information Sharing Act of 2011. The bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to require the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA) to develop intelligence on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and share that information.

General CBRN Focus

As with most WMD it is obvious that the authors are mostly concerned with biological attacks, but the language in this bill provides more emphasis on whole range of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks. In adding §210G to Subtitle A of title II of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 the bill would require the OIA to “support homeland security-focused intelligence analysis of terrorist actors, their claims, and their plans to conduct attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials against the Nation” {§210G(a)(1)}.

Additionally, the OIA would be directed to “leverage existing and emerging homeland security intelligence capabilities and structures to enhance prevention, protection, response, and recovery efforts with respect to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack” {§210G(a)(4)}.

Specific Biosecurity Focus

The specific focus on biosecurity issues can be seen in the requirement to “support homeland security-focused intelligence analysis of global infectious disease, public health, food, agricultural, and veterinary issues;” {§210G(a)(2)}.

Even where the bill directs OIA to share this intelligence information with State, local, and tribal authorities, it provides for the additional sharing of the information with “other national biosecurity and biodefense stakeholders” {§210G(a)(5)}. Interestingly, the only place in the new §210G that mentions the private sector is in the definition of ‘biosecurity and biodefense stakeholders’ which the language explains includes “individuals from the private sector who are involved in efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from a biological attack” {§210G(d)(3)}.

Private Sector Intelligence Sharing

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 already requires the Secretary to share intelligence information with sharing intelligence information with “private sector entities with such responsibilities [relating to homeland security] in order to assist in the deterrence, prevention, preemption of, or response to, terrorist attacks against the United States.” {6 USC 121(d)(8)}. Section 3 of this bill would make some minor changes in the wording of this requirement, principally adding ‘tribal’ entities to the list of government agencies (State and local) included in the information sharing requirements.

As I have mentioned on a number of occasions (drum banging warning) it seems obvious that there is a much more likely CBRN threat than a biological or radiological attack and that is a chemical attack using any of a wide variety of readily available industrial chemicals. The technology for weaponizing those chemicals is much simpler than that for biological or radiological agents and they are much easier to find. This is the reason that we have the CFATS program after all.

What is lacking in the CFATS program (okay one of the things that is lacking) is an intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination capability to identify potential threats. This bill would be an excellent place to require OIA to establish a national chemical fusion center that would bring together government and private sector chemical intelligence collection and analysis capabilities. This could be coordinated with the Office of Infrastructure Protection to include communications to and from high-risk chemical facilities; the most likely sources of material for a truly large scale CBRN attack.

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