Chris Seiple





The term “Consequence Management” was introduced into the national security lexicon with the promulgation of Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 39 in 1995.  This PDD’s purpose was to establish how the nation would respond to terrorism employing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and how the consequences of such an incident would be managed.  Despite the very broad outlines of the PDD, consequence management, for the most part, continues to be a tabula rasa.  It has never been done before. There are not yet any experts.  The concept of “consequence management” will remain ill-defined as well-intentioned organizations and individuals grapple with how they might institutionalize a comprehensive operational response to a terrorist’s use of WMD.  Make no mistake, though, consequence management is not only a characteristic of the Post Cold War, it is also an indicator of just how capable this nation is of re-conceptualizing and reorganizing for its security in the 21st Century. 


It is with this humble and acute awareness that the following thoughts on consequence management and the supporting role of the American military are offered.  This chapter does not provide answers, only data points that will hopefully help shape the emerging national doctrine of consequence management.  Obviously, this perspective is based on the experience  of the Marine Corps’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF).  Perhaps limited in its scope, this approach may prove useful for two fundamental reasons.  First, CBIRF remains the only full-time US Government entity purposefully created for consequence management.  It is a multi-functional unit created for a multi-functional problem.  Second, CBIRF – because it can turn contaminated victims into treatable patients -- has become the tactical touchstone of the government’s consequence management responses thus far.  As a result, CBIRF possess a unique vantage point of how all the pieces of the consequence management pie actually come together during a response.


This chapter examines the CBIRF experience thus far in preparing for, and managing, an attack on the United States by individuals, groups, or states that use chemical or biological weapons to attain their political ends.[1]   It is written only to offer another perspective in the process of  identifying things to change, to emulate, and to create as this country slowly but surely develop a response capability that is not only effective in nature, but will also serve as a deterrent.




The threat is real. The sarin gas attack that killed 12 people in a Tokyo subway in 1995 (and injured hundreds more) established the precedent, a dubious distinction that almost fell to the United States two years earlier. Only the unanticipated power of the explosion that rocked the World Trade Center in 1993, vaporizing the cyanide that had been packed with the explosive, prevented the gas from spreading throughout the area. More recently, a man was arrested with a car full of suspected biological weapons.[2] The seemingly inevitable attempt by foreign or domestic terrorists to use such weapons against the United States requires a candid discussion about how we as a nation are preparing to manage the consequences of such an incident.[3]


It is clear that we are not yet prepared. We are, however, moving ahead:  policy is being forged, planning is underway, funds are being made available, and people are beginning to study the threat and its consequences.  Public Law 104-201 -- The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act -- designates the Department of Defense (DOD) as the lead agency for domestic preparedness against weapons of mass destruction (until 1999).  Within DOD, the office of Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict has supervisory oversight; and the Director of Military Support on the Army staff is designated as the action agent. The Army's Chemical-Biological Defense Command at Aberdeen, Maryland, is directly responsible for program implementation.


The office of Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict--according to the provisions of the Defense Authorization Act for FY 1997 (Titles XIV, XV, and II)--has established the management structure for addressing domestic preparedness. Further, working in conjunction with the other DOD agencies, it has developed a plan to spend more than $48 million dollars in FY 1998: $24 million on emergency response preparedness; $17 million on preparedness training; and more than $7 million on chemical and biological response. These funds were first used to prepare 27 cities for WMD terrorism (Denver was  the pilot program in April, 1997). Over the next three years, a total of 120 metropolitan cities will receive the same training, which includes classroom instruction, video, CD-ROM, and the Internet as educational tools. [4]  Training and materials also will be made available to anyone in the United States who requests them.[5]


Still, the United States is not ready to address systematically the consequences of a WMD event.[6]  Detection capabilities are limited, integrated analytical and planning efforts are proclaimed but not fully understood, and  the domestic use of military forces need to be purposefully reexamined.  Of great concern is that there still is no understanding of how all the moving parts of a response to such an attack would function in relation to the requirement and to one another (particularly for a biological scenario).  The whole is not only greater, it is also different than the sum of its parts.






Following the March sarin gas attack in Japan and the April Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, President Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD-39) on June 21, 1995. The PDD divides the threat--at home and abroad--into two discrete categories: crisis response and consequence management. Crisis response refers to instances where the perpetrators of an assault have been discovered before an actual WMD release.  In this context, there could be one or more "devices" to be rendered safe as a result of uncovering the plan or neutralizing the terrorists. Domestic crisis response is the responsibility of the FBI; the Department of State, through its Office of Counterterrorism, is accountable for overseas incidents.


Consequence management, by contrast, describes ways and means to alleviate the short- and long-term physical, socio-economic, and psychological effects of a chemical or biological attack. It describes the coordination of local, regional, national, and international assets before, during, and after an attack.


The term includes preparatory work, before the crisis.  Such work might include – in preparation for a nationally significant event like the Super Bowl, for example-- site surveys; assessment of the ability of local hospitals to treat or decontaminate victims, and the size, condition, and locations of local stocks of various antidotes. Preparation could include determining the locations, size, and availability of other national antidote stocks as well as international stocks available to support planning for surge capacity.


Thereafter, should counter-terrorist and police agencies be unable to prevent the incident, consequence management would include treatment of victims within a contaminated zone, their decontamination and evacuation, and local cleanup. It would also involve psychological treatment and other efforts to restore confidence in the social and economic well-being of the affected area and of the country itself. The Oklahoma City experience suggests that the latter could require long-term commitment of considerable resources. [7]  Responsibility for consequence management of WMD attacks rests with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for domestic incidents and with the Department of State, through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, for overseas incidents.


Complicating any designated bureaucratic responsibility are the different conceptual approaches that chemical and biological incidents demand.  For example, after a chemical attack, there is very short period of time within which to make a difference:  those who are going to survive do and those who are not, do not. Once decontaminated and removed from the incident site, or "hot zone," victims can be dispersed to hospitals.[8]


The biological conceptual approach is the opposite:  theoretically, the victims must be immediately isolated (for a contagion) in order to prevent the agent from spreading. Potential victims need to be isolated from the definitely uncontaminated public; they also should be isolated from others afflicted with the illness until each individual's degree of exposure can be established. Given today's detection capabilities and the incubation period of biological agents, however, we will never be quite sure when and to what degree we have been contaminated. Hence the diabolical genius of a biological agent attack: we become "the [unknowing] vector of our own death."[9]


From the foregoing it should be clear that any division of responsibility between response before the fact and dealing with consequences after the fact of an attack is both arbitrary and artificial.  First, we may never experience a crisis response “phase.”  Indeed, we might be so lucky as to have the known presence of “bad guys,” just to know that there was some sort of release (particularly in a biological scenario).  Second, while bureaucratically essential in terms of designating a lead – and accountable – agency, the dichotomy PDD-39 creates between crisis response and consequence management could lead to a disjointed and ineffective response. Given the varied dimensions and manifestations of chemical and biological responses, the battle of consequence management has been lost if there has not been consultation and planning well before any threat of an incident emerges.  Planning the response cannot be conducted efficiently in an ad hoc manner after an incident. 


We must therefore think of crisis response and consequence management as parallel and overlapping continuums.  Arbitrary distinctions between activities before and after a WMD attack cannot be extended into planning and operational activities. Should we allow those two continuous and overlapping processes to be compartmentalized--and thus expressed in a simple linear logic because they are considered mutually exclusive--we will fail in our response and thus invite future attacks.


Moreover, we can never forget that there is a fundamental difference between consequence management and what public health officials have long known as technological disasters (e.g., accidents such as Chernobyl).  The actions taken in an attempt to manage the consequences of a WMD attack, while perhaps similar to a response to a technological disaster, must account for the political objectives of the terrorist.  Any consequence management action may or may not play into future actions already planned by the terrorists who launched the WMD assault (such as a second or third attack).  We should keep in mind that consequence management, like war, is very much about political ends, strategy, and the interaction of two wills: our own and that of the terrorist planning an attack. Therefore, we must attempt to discern the terrorist’s political objective (e.g., proving a government ineffective or causing it to over-react) and conduct our consequence management activities in such a way as to deprive the terrorist of any political return for their action.  Accordingly, perception management is critical.


And thus, the mixed blessing of PDD-39:  On the one hand, it has produced long-overdue and sustained attention to the very real threat from weapons of mass destruction. This attention has resulted in some practical and continuing efforts to confront the problem. On the other hand, the distinction in PDD-39 between crisis response and consequence management could encourage linear thinking and the conclusion that once the "crisis" is over, consequence management begins. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a terrorist-initiated WMD event, domestic or international, consequence management is the crisis.


It is an exceptionally formidable task.




The Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) is a national consequence management asset capable of rapid response to chemical or biological attacks initiated by terrorists.  An integral part of the nation’s nascent domestic consequence management preparation, CBIRF was pre-positioned for such potential terrorist targets as the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the Presidential Inauguration, and The Summit of the Eight.


CBIRF was the vision of the Marine Corps Commandant, General Charles C. Krulak. Following the March 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack, General Krulak--then Marine Forces Pacific commander--went to his commander and asked what assets Pacific Command could muster to assist the Japanese. The answer: "We've got nothing."[10]   Upon becoming Commandant in July 1995, General Krulak--with no tasking from the Department of Defense--established the CBIRF. By April 1996, the CBIRF vision had become an operational force, created out of existing Marine Corps personnel, infrastructure, and budget.


In and of themselves, the elements that make up CBIRF are routinely military. Together, however, they are truly a revolutionary organization.  CBIRF includes reconnaissance, detection, decontamination, medical, security, and service support elements. With these capabilities "under one tent," CBIRF has the ability to provide command and control support to the civilian incident site commander; conduct detection in a contaminated environment; insert Navy doctors into a contaminated (“hot”) zone for immediate triage of the more serious cases; decontaminate the victims; and turn the victims over to the local health authorities outside the hot zone. The unit also has memoranda of understanding with numerous government agencies such as the Naval Medical Research Institute.[11]  The force is additionally supported by an "electronic reachback" group of scientific and medical consultants headed by Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg. Nowhere else are such assets contained in one deployable unit, and no other organization has developed a comparable extended support structure ready to help in a crisis. With its elements cross-trained in their respective specialties, CBIRF has become the tactical touchstone of consequence management: turning contaminated victims into treatable patients.


The experiences of CBIRF since its inception offer several important insights into the genesis, and ongoing development of, consequence management.  We pay particular attention to CBIRF’s deployment to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. The Games mark not only the first consequence management effort this nation  has ever planned for, it remains the most comprehensive. 


With uncharacteristically blunt language, The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act describes the nation's major shortfalls in consequence management:


(19) the . . . US lacks adequate planning and countermeasures to address the threat of nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical terrorism . . .

(21) State and local emergency response personnel are not adequately prepared or trained for incidents involving nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical materials;

(22) Exercises of the Federal, State, and local response to nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical terrorism have revealed serious deficiencies in preparedness and severe problems of coordination.[12]


This post-Olympics language (the law was passed in September of 1996) describes exactly the pre-Olympics situation in Atlanta.[13]  Not only was the whole world coming to Atlanta, it was the summer before a presidential election: every stone would be overturned to ensure that nothing went wrong. Under those conditions, the potential for terrorism, to include chemical-biological terrorism, was taken very seriously. Understandably, however, the focus was on the terrorist-initiated event itself. While thought was given to the consequences of a chemical-biological incident--and a consequence management response structure was in fact developed--there was no conceptual understanding of the problem nor were the particulars of a tactical response thought through.


This status began to change as the Office of Emergency Preparedness in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) started asking questions. Tasked with taking care of mass casualties in any situation, HHS was acutely aware that they did not have the capacity to treat or decontaminate victims within a hot zone created by chemical or biological agents. Indeed, the ability to turn victims into patients did not exist within the entire US government, except (coincidentally) within the Marine Corps' just-established Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force.


However, CBIRF, like everyone else, did not have an overarching federal consequence management concept within which to operate. As a result, a month before the games started the key agencies involved held several meetings to design such a concept and the accompanying operational coordination mechanism.[14] These two basic needs were reflected in the sine qua non issues of managing mass casualties and collecting evidence from a potentially contaminated area.


The challenge of managing mass casualties raised tough questions about assets, such as decontamination capabilities available at the local Atlanta hospitals; locations of national antidote reserves and how they would be flown in; surge capacity of all available federal assets and the ability of those responsible for those assets to adjust to the situation; evacuation plans; and training of response personnel. As with any other form of disaster planning, these were essentially issues of matching resources to the response. Unlike disaster planning, however, these questions would remain largely unanswered even as they helped to frame the enormity of just what consequence management entailed. They remain only partially answered today.


Equally important was the FBI’s requirement for evidence collection. The FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit (HMRU)[15] needed to know what the response would look like during its first five minutes. This unit's philosophy was simple: there might be a lot of dead people about, but if one could not prove who did it, the likelihood of more dead people in future incidents just increased. Despite the extreme emotion of the moment, evidence had to be collected. It was from the perspective of this tactical immediacy that a response structure began to emerge by late June of 1996.


The effectiveness of the consequence management response depended on the chemical or biological samples that would be taken from the disseminating device itself or from contaminated material within the hot zone. Most important, once correctly identified, the samples would determine what kind of health response was necessary. Samples would also begin to build the case against the perpetrators. Thus the potentially conflicting needs to prepare for mass casualties and to facilitate evidence collection were bound together in establishing a concept of consequence management. The components of the solution were to be found throughout Atlanta; locations reflected circumstances at the time of planning rather than deliberate selection to enhance response to a threat or an incident.


The Chem/Bio Response Team, established at Dobbins Air Force Base in the northwest part of greater Atlanta, was in charge of sample collection. If there was an incident, this five-man team was to respond by helicopter to the incident site to obtain samples. The team was composed of two FBI personnel (team lead and evidence collection); two Army Technical Escort Unit personnel (sampling, sample escort, decontamination, and emergency ordinance disposal); and one Navy doctor from CBIRF to provide medical support to the team. Once the sample had been taken, plans were to fly it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention campus at Chamblee (just north of downtown Atlanta), where the identification and verification laboratories were located.


The CBIRF established itself at a winery in downtown Atlanta, just six blocks from Centennial Park.[16] Within blocks to a mile of most Olympic venues, CBIRF was ready for a quick response.  CBIRF was well positioned to augment the Chem/Bio Response Team, to take samples, and to become the basis for--under the lead of the Atlanta Fire Department--an incident response structure. Once the samples were collected, they had to reach the Chamblee campus. It was here that the personnel and equipment necessary to identify a sample had been assembled.


The conglomeration of consequence management agencies at the Chamblee campus was known as the Science and Technology Center (or SciTech Center).[17] Once samples had arrived and been identified, the center's executive steering committee (with a member from each agency) would meet to make a recommendation to its chair, the FBI Laboratory Coordinator. Advice of the Science and Technology Center's chairperson, as science advisor to the Special Agent in Charge, would be instrumental in determining what kind of response should be taken to a WMD incident.


The consequence management structure and team were ready when, on  July 27, 1996, the pipe-bomb exploded in the early morning hours at Centennial Park. Because there were no apparent or suspected chemical agents released by the blast, the consequence management response structure was never officially activated. There is no indication, however, that the threat of biological contamination was ever considered by security authorities. CBIRF received an unofficial call from Atlanta's assistant fire chief within five minutes of the blast and had representatives at the scene within 15 minutes of the call. Within 20 minutes, CBIRF had assembled a force of 300 personnel, fully protected and ready to respond. Meanwhile, back at the lab, the SciTech Center's members were asking themselves what higher authorities seemingly did not: what if the blast had been laced with a biological agent? Within two hours of the incident, shrapnel, soil, and textile samples had been brought back to the SciTech Center for confirmation that they were not contaminated.[18]


The conceptual parameters described above have been applied to most consequence management preparations.  However, each major CBIRF deployment – through its incumbent interaction with several US Government and local agencies – has revealed very specific lessons.[19]


Atlanta (July, 1996). 


·        The toxic-industrial chemical threat is perhaps more probable than a typical military chemical threat. Toxic-industrial chemicals are not only more accessible in the United States, they are much cheaper than the average military agent. 

·        The use of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) technology is instrumental to consequence management.  The procurement process of any government agency will never be fast enough to keep up with the emerging field of consequence management.  Military units, in particular, must be enabled to buy and field cutting edge technology and equipment.  (This will probably be the case for any asymmetric threat that the United States faces as well).

·        The proper pre-positioning of consequence management forces at events of national significance (given credible indicators) is the preferred method of employment.

·        A streamlined chain-of-command is essential.  All “chain-of-command” concerns aside, CBIRF would have worked for the Fire Chief if the Centennial bombing had been contaminated (a relationship unofficially sought and nurtured by both sides prior to the start of the Games).  Enabling the local consequence management coordinator should be the focus of effort for the entire federal response.

·        The task-organized, multi-functional, capabilities of CBIRF were validated.  The combination of its cross-trained elements provided a unique and catalytic energy to the consequence management effort.

·        The virtual “reackback” to recognized health and scientific experts is a necessary capacity.

·        The Atlanta organizational model, while conceptually helpful, was an operational anomaly. Never again (unless there's a significant event in Atlanta) will there be a lash-up like the one for the Olympics. To have the Centers for Disease Control in the same town as the event and located just three miles from the FBI command post was pure coincidence.


Presidential Inauguration (January, 1997).


·          The identification of contaminated victims and their personal effects and a description of the care they have received is an arduous task in the chaos of a hot zone.  CBIRF has developed an ever-maturing operating procedure to address this problem.  Victims are given a triage tag within the hot zone that can be decontaminated.  This tag, for example, records the number of antropine injections a victim might have received.  Victims are also videotaped as they proceed through the decontamination line.   While victims are being turned into patients through the decontamination process, their contaminate personal effects are identified with bar codes and placed in storage bags.


Summit of the Eight (July, 1998).[20]


·        Various vulnerabilities forced the recognition that CBIRF could not show up, even if properly pre-positioned, without having thought through and conducted some deliberate planning for specific scenarios.  Hence, “event folders” were developed that would save time but also serve as a living institutional memory for the unit. 

·        There remains a disconnect in the intelligence and information sharing networks.  In support of these “event folders,” the immediate question is where does one get the information necessary to properly plan.  How do the governmental agencies (e.g., the FBI) properly “feed” a unit like CBIRF?  What constitutes information and what constitutes intelligence for a proactive unit like CBIRF?  This issue remains unclear.

·        There must be vertical and horizontal integration within a response.  Local responders must be empowered by federal assets.[21]  Transparency is crucial in building trust between local responders and government agencies.

·        The DOD program to educate first responders is effective.  Local authorities were clearly aware of the various dimensions of crisis response and consequence management.

·        “Decon-in-depth” must be an integral part of any consequence management plan.  No matter how good the response, there are two probable events:  1)  even protected and trained first responders will tire; and 2) victims will slip out of the hot zone before being decontaminated, usually contaminating the local hospital.  A good consequence management plan must provide for several decontamination sites and the relief of the first responders.

·        The application of antidotes must be thought through.  For a regular nerve agent, 36-40 milligrams of antropine would be needed for an extreme case.  The antropine, however, only comes in relatively expensive auto-injectors carrying two milligrams (it is not readily available in vial form).  Not only would a patient end up being stuck with a needle twenty times, but the expense of saving mass casualties would rise dramatically.  




While the above tactical issues will be solved, of even greater significant are the key issues which will define how consequence management matures as a doctrine and as a response structure.  These issues have been noted time and again during operations and exercises.  


Unity of effort and a “JIATF.” The most significant crisis response/consequence management observation is the absolute necessity for unity of effort at the tactical (first responders), operational (state and regional), and strategic (the “Feds”) levels of response.  These levels of organizational and analysis must holistically mirror each other.  At the least, the tactical and operational levels must have a central coordination center whereby the various elements of the military (Joint) and US government (Inter-Agency) can come together.  Hence, a Joint-Inter-Agency Task Force (JIATF), or its conceptual equivalent, is imperative to a successful crisis response and consequence management effort.[22]


Operational Transition.  While separating crisis response from consequence management, PDD-39 does not provide any guidance on the transition between the two “phases.”  Although more and more thought has been given to this imperative, military and civilian exercises usually focus on one or the other.


The Importance of a “SciTech Center.” The importance of the Atlanta “ Science and Technology Center,” or its conceptual equivalent, is critical for sample and evidence identification and verification.  (Whether an actual center is needed as first-responding units increasingly possess identification and verification technologies is a question that remains to be answered).  However, without identification and verification, the proper health response cannot take place.


Biological Operations Concept.  The Biological dimension of WMD terrorism is only now being more fully analyzed (in part because the chemical scenario was much more familiar and therefore easier to deal with).  This effort must be encouraged, supported, and exercised.  It will be a luxury to have a crisis response phase with a biological agent.


Information flow. The role, and flow, of information is critical.  It is inherently hampered by the need of crisis responders to keep their information secret and the desire of consequence managers to be transparent.  In order to help consequence management personnel to properly prepare, classified or sensitive information--such as a daily threat brief— should be released to relevant units/agencies.  If this does not occur, the inevitable result is the compartmentalization of the crisis response and consequence management efforts.  More thought should be given to the “translation” of sensitive and classified information to unclassified and applicable consequence management information.  


Connectivity and culture. Much has improved since Atlanta, but the perceptions of that first clash of cultures still persist.  For example, while there was superficial connectivity from the SciTech Center to FBI regional headquarters, there was never any feeling of legitimate inclusion among the assembled consequence management personnel at the SciTech Center. And why should there have been? Not only were the consequence management people johnny-come-latelies (some of the Olympics security personnel had been preparing for over a year), they brought with them an operational paradigm that had been made up in the previous month and had not been tested or evaluated. The result was a relationship that looked good in an organizational diagram, but did not convey any real connectivity.


Part of this on-going, and natural, problem probably results from the fact that scientists and doctors are necessarily at the center of a consequence management effort. They are from a different culture than the door-kicking, hostage-rescuing, terrorist-killers around whom much of the counterterrorist organizations have been built. Consequently, great effort should be taken to collocate the coordination centers of the crisis response and the consequence management.  The scientists and doctors are instrumental to the success of the entire consequence management effort: without agent identification and the commensurate public health response, the consequences cannot be managed.


DOD leadership. Much will depend on how DOD adapts to the guidance it receives. DOD leaders and consequence management instructors need to be allowed and encouraged to deal with the problem as a whole--crisis response and consequence management--while taking time to acknowledge that chemical and biological incidents require different responses.


Transition from DOD leadership. The Department of Defense is tasked, by law, with domestic preparedness until at least 1999. DOD has the required expertise in the field and is the best organized of any federal agency to quickly implement a program. But who will take over from DOD in 1999? If no replacement organization or civilian institution is ready to assume responsibility as the lead agency, as required by Public Law 104-201, then we have another potentially significant precedent.  What other new or existing additional domestic problems might be given to DOD for solution?[23] A permanent organizational role for DOD in domestic affairs should be challenged.[24]


Top-down capabilities/Bottom-up solutions.   Right now, the real consequence management capabilities reside at the federal level. The problem, of course, is that the solutions to consequence management will always come from the local level.  The friction that results, although sometimes inevitable, is a real impediment to a comprehensive response.  Empowering local first responders must be our paramount priority.   There should be a conscious effort of self-disenfranchisement by federal responders.  It is not a natural process.


Continuum of response. Much work remains to plan for and integrate the activities of assets between the federal level and the affected community. We (from the local to the federal level) need to:


•Establish the coordination mechanisms needed to coordinate the entire immediate response before federal assets arrive.

 •Use federal assets properly and expeditiously to augment the existing response structure.

•Examine the role of the military's reserves and National Guard in a tiered response between the first responders and the arrival of federal help.[25]

 •Plan for surge capacities that will be needed for different types of response.

            •Develop model and specific evacuation plans.

•Decide who will handle the information campaign.

 •Define the role of medical facilities, including preparation for mass psychological casualties.[26]

•Ensure that fire and police departments are prepared to work together.


Combat operations mentality. Is a combat operations mentality appropriate for civilian training? [27]  Such an approach reminds us that managing the consequences of a WMD event is not equivalent to responding to a natural disaster or a humanitarian crisis. We are dealing with an enemy; how the consequences are managed may play into his hands. Conversely, a typically military approach will never be the answer in working with civilians.  A balance must be struck:  like it or not, military forces will generally work for the local fire chief; but that fire chief must also account for how his actions encourage/discourage an active terrorist.


Combat preparedness. Most DOD chem-bio forces were originally created to protect American troops on the battlefield. With the prospect that these troops will be required to train civilians, we need to evaluate the effects of diverting trainers from their primary purpose. Combat troops prepared for survival on a contaminated battlefield are an imperative in an age in which potential adversaries who lack the means to confront us in a conventional conflict may reach for weapons of mass destruction to offset our technological and operational advantages.[28] We remain responsible for ensuring that our troops are adequately prepared for the contaminated battlefield.


Legal ramifications. The Reconstruction-era law referred to as Posse Comitatus, which limits the involvement of US armed forces in domestic law enforcement, probably needs to be examined specifically with the threat of terrorist WMD attacks in mind. Consider the FBI-led Chem-Bio Response Team developed for immediate sample collection during the Olympics. While the tasks were clearly delineated and in keeping with the law--and illustrative of new partners for new problems--this type of tactical expediency can serve to establish, simply through close tactical association, impairing precedents to Posse Comitatus.  Such tactical associations can, de facto, strategically accumulate to a policy that was not purposefully thought through or intended.


·        Posse Comitatus should be reviewed.. The longer military and domestic law enforcement officials serve together, the greater the chance of a blurring of the law. While it may be time to adjust the interpretation of this law, it should not occur as an unintended consequence of operating together. We do not advocate further Federal and Department of Defense domestic involvement in consequence management.  What we do advocate is the purposeful, appropriate, and minimal domestic use of the military by design, not by default, according to coherent and strategic legislation.


Money. As in so many instances, money is the determinant of success and chem-bio defense is a growth industry. The Administration and Congress will have to decide who will pay for the infrastructure and capabilities necessary to meet the threat. There are two dangers here. First, beware of the difference between capabilities and crackerjacks. In an age of no experts and little collective experience, there will be no shortage of pretenders. From organizations to individuals, it is inevitable that some will claim false capabilities as they pursue the newly available funds for WMD defense. Second, beware of the possible outcome that merely validates DOD's nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) force structure and budget. The NBC capabilities within DOD were designed during the Cold War to protect combat troops on a battlefield. Certainly, some of these concepts and methodologies will be transferable to the problem of domestic consequence management. But a lock, stock, and barrel transfer will constitute a setback, not progress.




Because it comes down to money, because there will be impostor capabilities, because there are no experts, and because there is the danger of old paradigms used as a reference point by default, the following suggestions seek to avoid these four potential obstacles.


Invest in WMD detection. From enhancing old systems to developing completely new ones, full-spectrum detection is the desired end state. Detection is the first line of defense; it is where tactical consequence management begins.


Solicit advice and participation of professional organizations.  The professional associations of police and fire departments, doctors, first responders, etc. should be actively sought out.  Their opinions will be invaluable in creating federal standards that empower local response.


Encourage consequence management awareness and training. New awareness, education, and training concepts will be the keys to success.[29]  Not only will these new concepts ensure a lowest common denominator of knowledge at the local, regional, and national level--about the problem itself and the capabilities of other organizations--they will become the foundation on which to develop a certification process for all levels of response. Such a process will enable the nation to begin standardizing its response to the consequences of WMD. Without a certification process, disparate approaches will inevitably inhibit communication and coordination.


Identify, train, and mentor individuals within organizations. Like many new problems that demand new partners, a new culture must be created to deal with the consequences of terrorist use of WMD. Without "growing" such a culture, organizations will not be able to respond effectively and efficiently to either crisis response or consequence management tasks.


Develop a tiered continuum of response. All national assets--such as the Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force--unless already deployed to potential terrorist targets such as the Super Bowl or an Inauguration, are generally not going to be able to respond to an incident within 6 to 12 hours. In that case, local responders will have to carry the burden of the immediate response. Just how the state’s National Guard’s units and Federal assets support the first responders in a systematic way has yet to be fully determined.


Establish an operational concept for a deployable module of the Science and Technology Center. The Science and Technology Center, or its functional equivalent, needs to be recognized as the catalyst of the consequence management system. The cascade of public health activities  in response to an incident cannot begin until an agent(s) has been positively identified. This new entity -- until first responding and federal units have their own inherent identification and verification capability -- has to be deployable. The “SciTech Center” must be modularized and capable of being deployed selectively anywhere in the United States, prepared to operate on its own or to augment existing laboratories, if any, near the incident site.


Select participants in any aspect of consequence management with great care. With so many organizations and agencies involved in consequence management, unity of command is probably impossible. The only alternative is unity of effort based on however many people are needed at the table for collaboration and coordination. Once at that table, a transparent flow of information through all essential channels will make or break the cohesion of effort in a response to a WMD attack. More than anything else, this type of cohesion is the result of hand-picked personnel with excellent interpersonal skills.




An incident will happen: WMD will be used against Americans in their own country. The time to begin managing, to plan for, the consequences is now. We will be capable of this daunting task only if we remain candid and open to discussion.  For now, effective consequence management can be boiled to down to four essential points:


1.      To mitigate effects of a WMD attack – to save life and limb – we must have genuine capabilities.


2.      Consequence Management is the crisis:  credible crisis response must fully incorporate a comprehensive consequence management effort.


3.      Once a WMD event occurs, the consequence management efforts are all that stands between a terrorist and his political objectives; do not forget that WMD is not only a “poor man’s nuke,” it is also a “poor man’s coercive diplomacy.”


4.      We will win or lose a consequence management effort on CNN:  perception becomes reality.


We understand that the emergence of consequence management means we live in an era of fundamentally new and transnational problems that demand new partners and new solutions. It is an age of borders violated and ethical and moral norms ignored. How we develop strategic initiatives and cooperate operationally will determine not only how successful we are in preparing for WMD terrorism, it will also begin to determine just how capable we are of re-conceptualizing, and re-organizing for, the future of this nation’s security.


 We must meet these threats with minds "untrammeled by set forms and fixed ideas . . . . [A]bove all else, let us kill the stereotype, or it will kill us."[30]




Captain Chris Seiple, USMC, serves in the Pentagon with the Strategic Initiatives Group at Headquarters, US Marine Corps.  He was the Headquarters action officer for the Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force during its conceptual development and deployed with the force to Atlanta where he provided interagency liaison to the Science and Technology Center. Most recently he served on the staff of the National Defense Panel and is the author of “The U.S. Military/NGO Relationship in Humanitarian Interventions” (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: US Army Peacekeeping Institute, 1996).


[1] While no less serious, the threat of a nuclear attack is less probable and we do not focus on this dimension of WMD.  (A national response structure, based on the Nuclear Emergency Support Team, is already performing its mission).

[2] See Jeff Stein, “Call him Dr. Death,” Salon Magazine, February 19, 1998 (

[3] Criminal cases pertaining to nuclear, biological, and chemical threats, incidents, or investigations were up three-fold for 1997 (although many were determined not to be credible).  See Louis J. Freeh, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Threats to U.S. National Security,” Statement for the Record, before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Washington D.C., January 28, 1998.

[4] For example, National Guard units will have the Distance Learning Center at their locations. This education mechanism will be available to local emergency response officials.

[5] See the U.S. Army’s Chemical Biological Defense Command’s homepage for more information on the training of first responders (

[6] See Government Accounting Office Report # NSIAD 98-39, “Combating Terrorism:  Spending on Governmentwide Programs Requires Better Management and Coordination,” 12/01/97.  It states:

“Although PDD 39 establishes interagency coordinating and working groups under the auspices of NSC [National Security Council] to handle policy and operational issues related to combating terrorism, these groups operate on a consensus basis, do not have decision-making authority, and do not establish government wide resource priorities for combating terrorism.” Pg. 8.

[7] See, for example, Charles L. Mercier, Jr., “Terrorists, WMD, and the US Army Reserve,” Parameters, 27 (Autumn 1997), 98-118.

[8] This description is a general one and most appropriate for nerve agents.  Some chemicals, such as mustard gas, take longer (twelve hours).

[9] Dr. Joseph Waeckerle, M.D., telephone interview, 6 June 1997.  (Dr. Waeckerle is the Editor of The Annals of Emergency Medicine).

[10] General Krulak presentation at Headquarters, Marine Corps, September 27, 1996.

[11] The Naval Medical Research Institute (NMRI) is another example of a vision made reality.  Under the guidance of Commander Jim Burans, USN, NMRI developed a deployable scientific kit that could identify biological agents within 15 minutes.  In early 1996, while working for the United Nations, a NMRI unit identified anthrax in Iraqi soil nearly two years after the fact.

[12] PL 104-201, Title XIV, “Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

[13] For an additional description of the consequence management effort in Atlanta, see Lois Embers, “TERRORISM:  Combating Chemical and Biological Threats,” in Chemical & Engineering News, November 4, 1996, pp. 10-16.

[14] The federal agencies that were prepared to support local fire, police, and health organizations included: Office of Emergency Preparedness/Public Health Support; the FBI; US Forces Command (FORCECOM was tasked by DOD with consequence management support to local authorities); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the Atlanta Fire Department; the Army's Technical Escort Unit (TEU), Material Command Treaty Lab, and Medical Research Institute for Infectious Disease; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the US Coast Guard Strike Team; the Defense Special Weapons Agency; CBIRF; and FEMA.

[15] The FBI’s HMRU is yet another example of a vision made reality in a very short time.  The brainchild of the FBI’s Dr. Randall S. Murch and Dr. Drew Richardson, the HMRU had just been by approved by the FBI in June of 1996.

[16] An exceptional moment in the Corps' history; the Marines had finally occupied ground truly worth defending.

[17] See footnote #10 for participating parties.

[18] That this even took place was due singularly to the initiative of Dr. Drew Richardson.

[19] These specific lessons based on a telephone interview with the Commander of CBIRF, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Corbett.

[20] The summit  took place in Denver, June 20-22, 1997.  It featured the G-7 plus the inclusion of Russia.

[21] The Los Angeles Police Department’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Terrorism is an excellent example of a vertically and horizontally integrated response capability.

[22] See GAO Report # NSIAD-97-254, “Combating Terrorism:  Federal Agencies’ Efforts to Implement National Policy and Strategy,” pp. 45 and 47.  The report notes that a Domestic Emergency Support Team (DEST) has been planned to support command and control in a WMD incident.  The DEST, however, has not been fully exercised nor has it ever deployed to an actual incident.

[23] See Department of Defense, “Report to Congress:  Domestic Preparedness Program in the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction,” May 1, 1997, pg. 13.  The report unequivocally states that the Department will no longer fund first-responder training in FY 99 and that exercises and preparedness tests will terminate after FY 2001.

[24] There continue to be concerns about the proper role of the military in support of civil authorities in these matters. See Knut Royce, "Army, FBI Mix Questioned," Long Island Newsday, 1 April 1997, p. 4.

[25] Another consideration for the operational solution is the role of the humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO). The NGOs (like FEMA) would call consequence management a technical disaster, not caring about its origins, only knowing that people were suffering. At the least, NGOs are going to have to become familiar with WMD and their potential effects on a refugee population fleeing an incident site, either at home or abroad. But should the NGOs be capable of operating in a hot zone? Should they be included in consequence management planning? Or, will new "WMD NGOs" arise to fill these unique voids in a global capacity to respond?

[26]  During the Tokyo subway gas attack, 4500 of the 5000 "injured" were thought to be psychosomatic. The psychological consequences of WMD use is something for which there is no precedent

[27] For example, there is the danger that the military will focus only on those chem-bio agents that it can detect. The capability to detect non-military threat agents, such as industrial agents, is not part of standard military operating equipment.

[28] The Department of Defense’s Report to Congress notes that “the use of DOD stockpiles of NBC supplies and materials for domestic emergencies will have a direct adverse impact on military readiness and force protection.”  Pg. 9.

[29] For example, consider the mindset change that must take place within the medical community. Dr. Adam Shapiro makes the child abuse awareness analogy. Before extensive awareness and education, doctors were not encouraged to ask about healing bruises on a child's body. "I fell off my bike," was good enough. With training, however, doctors began to think of alternative causes and examine other physical and psychological indicators. So it is with biological terrorism. The symptoms of biological agents can resemble flu symptoms. If a doctor were to get a number of flu victims in a short amount of time, he or she must at least consider the possibility that a biological agent is at work while beginning to look for positive or negative indicators.

[30] Adolph Von Schell, Battle Leadership (Ft. Benning, Ga.: The Benning Herald, 1933), p. 58.