February 1, 2002
The anthrax letter attacks of 2001 alerted the American public to the risks of bioterrorism and the possibility that such attacks could have devastating consequences not just for the American people but for the economy and indeed society as a whole. But concerns have subsided for the moment, in the absence of follow-on attacks. What is the real threat to America of bioterrorism? Is it simply a matter of technological inevitability or are more complex forces at play? Over the last decade, a sharp debate has emerged in the policy and academic communities on these questions. The speaker will review this debate, drawing on analytical work in the social sciences, especially in the terrorism studies field. He will provide some relevant historical context concerning terrorist interest in mass casualty techniques and especially biological weapons. He will characterize the different bodies of opinion that informed policymaking pre-September 11 and he will speculate about the impact of developments post-September 11 on the future bioterrorism threat. The presentation will not address the challenge of consequence management in the public health realm.
Dr. Bradley Roberts joined the research staff of the Institute of Defense Analysis (IDA) in 1995 where he conducts studies for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the joint military staff in the areas of counterproliferation, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and NBC weapons. Numerous studies that he has led or participated in include the Defense Counterproliferation Initiative, nuclear deterrence stewardship to 2015, NBC war termination issues, and the proliferation trends of nuclear and biological weapons in the Middle East and Asia. Dr. Roberts has authored Asymmetric Conflict 2010, Biological Weapons in Major Theater War, and Nuclear Multipolarity and Stability, all published by IDA, co-authored China, Nuclear Weapons, and Arms Control (Council of Foreign Relations) and is the Editor, Hype or Reality: Addressing the Risks of Mass Casualty Terrorism (Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute). He has served as the research fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and as the editor of The Washington Quarterly. He is also Adjunct Professor at George Washington University, chairs the research council of the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, and is a member of the Executive Committee, Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific and a Consultant, Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Roberts is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a Master's degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a doctorate from Erasmus University, The Netherlands.