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Sunday, October 24th, 2021

House panel explores US ability to counter weapons of mass destruction

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Leaders of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) testified before a congressional panel on Thursday about the United States’ ability to counter weapons of mass destruction and additional emerging threats.

U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Energy, Preparedness, Response, and Communications, convened the hearing. DHS restructuring and potential organizational changes like the creation of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office, were covered.

“The scope of threats our nation faces each day continues to change and evolve,” Donovan said. “We know that terrorist groups hope to employ new weapons, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents, to attack innocent people and cause destruction. It’s critical that our security agencies are able to protect the homeland, and I’ll be using the insight gathered to develop policies that help DHS further improve preparedness and response measures.”

James McDonnell, the assistant DHS secretary for countering weapons of mass destruction, William Bryan, the acting DHS undersecretary for science and technology, and Chris Currie, the director of emergency management, national preparedness and critical infrastructure protection at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), were among the hearing’s witnesses.

Witnesses voiced support for the creation of the CWMD Office. DHS leadership acknowledged plans to work with Congress to formalize the new division and to ensure its capable of confronting threats.

Creation of the office, DHS officials testified, would also improve U.S. defense against CBRN threats, enhance the strategic direction, allow for seamless sharing of best practices and reforms, and reduce agency overlap.

The hearing also explored the evolving scientific techniques used to manufacture biological weapons, including Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) technology.