U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force special forces personnel participate in a training exercise at Naval Station Pascagoula, Mississippi, October 26, 2016

commentary

(Defense One)

February 10, 2017

The Mission to Counter WMD: Avoiding Missteps While Transitioning Responsibility

U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force special forces personnel participate in a training exercise at Naval Station Pascagoula, Mississippi, October 26, 2016

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook/U.S. Air Force

by Daniel M. Gerstein

U.S. Special Operations Command will soon begin coordinating the Pentagon's efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction, which means the command is going to need new kinds of expertise and capacity.

This shift will require more than moving existing capabilities between commands. The challenge will be to elevate nonproliferation, counter-proliferation, and consequence management synchronization activities for disparate risks — think Fukishima nuclear disaster, Ebola public health emergency, Syria chemical weapons destruction and loose nukes — in a single command that is already engaged with a global counterterrorism campaign.

The DoD strategy for countering WMD has three components: containing and reducing threats, preventing the acquisition of related material, and responding to crises. SOCOM is well positioned for the first — thanks to long experience and expertise in counterterror operations and in tracking and rendering safe nuclear weapons and related material — but less so for the others....

The remainder of this commentary is available on defenseone.com.


Daniel M. Gerstein works at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and is an adjunct professor at American University. He was the undersecretary (acting) and deputy undersecretary in the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security from 2011 to 2014.

This commentary originally appeared on Defense One on February 10, 2017. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.