Contact: Erik Floden – 202.546.0795 ext. 110, mobile: 202.425.0475 or
Molly Pickett – 202.546.0795 ext. 119
Washington, D.C. – The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation criticized the federal government today for undercutting its own non-proliferation and homeland security policies by selling equipment that can be used to make biological weapons. The House Government Reform Committee received testimony that a fictitious company established by the General Accounting Office was able to buy surplus equipment from the Department of Defense that could be used to set up a biological weapons laboratory. The equipment, which is also commercially available, was sold at deeply discounted prices by the Pentagon’s Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service.
Erik Floden, director of the Center’s Terrorism Prevention Project, expressed disbelief that the Pentagon would provide lab equipment useful for biological weapons production at bargain basement prices. “If terrorists can acquire the Pentagon’s excess equipment and materials that can be used to develop biological weapons, the federal government has failed in its basic duty to provide for the safety of the American public,” noted Floden.
Between December 2002 and September 2003, the General Accounting Office purchased a bacteriological incubator, a laboratory centrifuge, a laboratory evaporator, a biological safety cabinet and chemical and biological protective clothing – all items needed to establish a biological weapons laboratory. In fact, the GAO found that much of what a terrorist would need to establish a laboratory to produce biological weapons is available to the public over the internet at govliquidation.com, a federal government web site.
GAO’s fictitious company did submit an End Use Certificate that the Pentagon approved because they suspected no questionable activity or export violations. However, the GAO found during the course of its investigation that there is a large secondary market for the surplus biological equipment it purchased, and “some buyers of excess DOD biological equipment resold these items to buyers in Canada, the Philippines, Malaysia, Egypt and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for transit to India, Pakistan and other countries.” In fact, all of the equipment purchased is included in a Department of Commerce program – Operation Shield America – that monitors sales and exports of about 100 nuclear, biological and chemical items sought by terrorists.
“The Bush Administration must get its own house in order if it is to be serious about preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related materials,” said Molly Pickett, director of the Center’s Non-Proliferation Project. “It makes no sense to have inspectors crawling all over Iraq to determine the extent of Saddam’s biological weapons expertise, while the Pentagon is selling equipment out its back door that terrorists could use to set up a weapons lab,” Pickett noted.