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Chemical Weapons

U.S. chemical defense programs still lack coordination, Government Accountability Office says

by Glenn Hess, special to C&EN
September 29, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 39

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must develop a strategy and implementation plan to better manage its fragmented chemical defense programs and activities, government auditors conclude in a new report. “Sharing resources and information department-wide could make DHS’s chemical defense more effective,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says. Recent chemical attacks in Malaysia and Syria have sparked concerns about the potential for similar attacks in the U.S. DHS established the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office in 2017 to consolidate efforts to prevent terrorists from using chemical agents against the U.S. But GAO says several of the department’s agencies, including U.S. Customs & Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard, still run their own programs. Carrying out chemical defense activities, such as assisting local jurisdictions with preparedness, without DHS-wide direction and coordination, creates risk that the department “may miss an opportunity to leverage resources and share information that could lead to greater effectiveness addressing chemical threats,” the report says. DHS agrees with GAO’s recommendation and says it has begun formulating a plan to better coordinate its chemical defense activities.

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