Biodefense Policy Seminar Wrap Up: Part 1

All Biodefense Policy Seminar events for Fall 2014 have concluded. Please enjoy a summary of the October 2014 event and join us for our Spring 2015 series. 

Carus and Caves

On Wednesday, October 22, Dr. W. Seth Carus and John P. Caves, both of the National Defense University, were speakers at the George Mason University Biodefense Policy Seminar on the topic of “The Future of Weapon of Mass Destruction in 2030.” Based on their 2014 paper of the same name, Carus and Caves investigate the possible nature and roles that WMD may play sixteen years from now.

In 2030, Carus and Caves argue, nuclear weapons may play an even larger role than they currently do. They anticipate that more states—for example, Japan and South Korea—could develop a nuclear arsenal in order to safeguard their own security. Proliferation isn’t the only threat that nuclear weapon pose, however. Carus and Caves also highlighted the potential for governments to lose physical control over existing weapons.

Furthermore, they said that the absence of current WMD terrorism is caused more by a lack of intent rather than lack of ability. Regarding chemical and biological weapons, Carus and Caves argue that these weapons could be more attractive in 2030 if the weapons have perceived military value, though they offer very little deterrent value.

In terms of U.S. policy, the speakers said that the United States should respond strongly to violations of WMD norms to deter proliferation. They also warned that if U.S. allies doubt the security guarantees of the United States, they may see developing their own weapons as the only surefire way to protect themselves in a multipolar world. Therefore, the United States needs to reinforce the strength of its security guarantees to prevent weapons proliferation among its allies.

So, should we be worried? Carus and Caves said that there will be a greater scope for WMD terrorism in 2030 thanks to new dual-use technologies that could make it easier to assemble, acquire, and deploy chemical or biological weapons. Moreover, the definition of WMD could change by 2030, beyond the traditional CBRN group, to include nanotechnology or cyber warfare. Overall, the speakers said that WMD in 2030 is likely to present a high consequence, low probability threat, but the danger of wider proliferation and increased use is still very real.