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Expert Views on Biological Threat Characterization for the U.S. Government: A Delphi Study
Wiley Online Library March 17, 2017
A scientific understanding of the threat posed by biological weapons is critical to determine biodefense priorities, set preparedness and response policies, and implement prevention and mitigation measures. The United States is committed to upholding the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) and 18 U.S. Code 175, which make it a crime to knowingly possess a biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon or if the material is not intended for peaceful purposes. For the purposes of defense, the U.S. government (USG) has deemed it necessary to conduct risk assessments and characterize the threat posed by biological weapons use to the U.S. homeland. Yet, the data required to develop risk assessments are largely insufficient; there are large gaps in our knowledge and understanding regarding biological weapons. We often have limited data on the biology of many potential biological threat agents (e.g., their dose–response profile, behavior under different conditions, and environmental persistence), and rather limited understanding of the intentions of adversaries who possess or seek to possess biological weapons. This uncertainty about both the biology of a threat agent as well as its likelihood of use makes effective decision making about biodefense resource prioritization difficult.