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10 January 2003


 

Text: U.S. Military Prepared Against Biological Weapon Threats

(Troops have "multi-layered set of defenses") (450)

The U.S. military has the means to protect its forces against the use
of biological weapons, a key U.S. defense official says.

While the strongest protections are against potential threats from
anthrax and smallpox, the military is also prepared to meet other
biological threats to its personnel, according to Assistant Secretary
of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder, who says
"America's troops are well-trained and protected with a robust,
multi-layered set of defenses against bioweapons."

His comments came in a news release -- issued January 9 by the Defense
Department --which noted that there is a full range of measures beyond
vaccines available to protect military personnel, including protective
suits, antibiotics, detection equipment and defensive training.

The news release followed press reports suggesting that the military's
efforts to develop biological defenses have been hurt by Congress'
failure to provide sufficient funding and a predisposition by drug
firms, prior to the September 2001 terrorist attacks, not to explore
the market for such products.

Following is the text of the department's release:

(begin text)

News Release

United States Department of Defense
January 9, 2003

DOD IS PREPARED TO PROTECT AGAINST BIOLOGICAL THREATS

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder
Jr. today stated that the U.S. military is prepared to protect its
personnel against the use of biological weapons. The Department uses a
range of measures to protect service members from biological threats
including combinations of protective clothing and equipment,
detectors, vaccines, antibiotics and training.

"The Chemical Biological Defense Program's initiatives over the last
decade have significantly improved our ability to protect service
members from the effects of biowarfare weapons. Our commanders on the
battlefield today have the benefit of those improvements," said
Winkenwerder.

DOD's (Department of Defense's) protective measures are strongest
against two significant biological threats: anthrax and smallpox.
Leaders are also prepared to deal with other biological threats. DOD
has supplies of anthrax and smallpox vaccines available to protect its
at-risk forces.

Winkenwerder stated, "in addition to the vaccines against the most
likely biological threats, anthrax and smallpox, DOD has other
countermeasures to protect against biological threat agents."

The Department continues to develop enhanced detection, prevention and
treatment methods to guard against all biological threats and works
cooperatively with other federal agencies, especially the Department
of Health and Human Services, private sector and academic researchers
and manufacturers to develop new medical countermeasures.

America's troops are well trained and protected with a robust,
multi-layered set of defenses against bioweapons. DOD is committed to
developing and fielding the most effective countermeasures to keep our
uniformed men and women healthy and safe.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)