Below the jump are a few responses issued by bioweapons policy experts in response to the Obama administration’s announcement on Wednesday and release of its biothreat strategy. Longer strides are being called for…
Dr. Marie Isabelle Chevrier – Professor at UT-Dallas, member of the Center’s Scientists Working Group on Biological and Chemical Weapons, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Biological Weapons Prevention Project in Geneva:
Ellen Tauscher’s speech to the Meeting of the States Parties of the Biological Weapons Convention was much anticipated by delegations. Yet there was little excitement or enthusiasm by the delegation following her speech. Delegations and NGO observers welcomed the change in tone from earlier US interventions during the Bush administration, contrasting it, in particular, with the strident address by John Bolton to the 5th Review Conference in 2001. Nevertheless the lack of specificity of proposals in Tauscher’s address was notable. People wondered about the meaning of language in the statement such as “compliance diplomacy” and “robust bilateral compliance discussion.” Optimists greeted the statement with hope that the statement will be followed by real engagement absent the arrogance of the past while pessimists found little if anything in the statement that would lead to real policy changes from the Bush administration. The inclusion of CBMs on an open website was generally welcome, as a small measure of transparency but not something that would likely lead to real confidence in compliance. Many NGOs are looking forward to greater transparency among all stakeholders rather than mere “bilateral…discussions.”
Dr. Amy E. Smithson – Senior Fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies:
Tauscher tabled a modest, constructive set of proposals, but given the $49 billion in U.S. biodefense spending since 2001, the international community will want more in terms of transparency from Washington than just posting the US confidence-building declarations?already available to all member governments?on the web and inviting one person to Ft. Detrick. New money earmarked for building international disease surveillance and reporting capacities would have more emphatically conveyed U.S. support for thorough implementation of the International Health Regulations. If the Obama administration hopes to claim the leadership mantle in the biological nonproliferation arena, they will have to bring something much bolder to the table. The sooner they do, the better.
Dr. Jonathan Tucker, Senior Fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies:
Although none of the elements of the U.S. strategy are new, taken together they provide a comprehensive and cooperative approach to the prevention of biological threats, both natural and deliberate. The main disappointment is the strategy’s lack of ambition with regard to strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention, both with respect to the treaty’s institutional deficit and the festering suspicions of non-compliance by a few member states. The measures proposed to address compliance concerns—increased transparency, confidence-building measures, and bilateral diplomacy—appear too weak to make much of a difference.
UPDATE: NOH’s bad – we should have acknowledged that Armchair Generalist was the first to post on this.