NBC Weapons: Boots And Gloves

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NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS

October 12, 2010: The U.S. Department of Defense recently purchased 250,000 CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) protective boots, at $29 a pair. This is in addition to a million CBRN gloves bought earlier, for $15 a pair. This is all because, despite all the treaties banning chemical weapons, and the thousands of tons of the stuff destroyed over the last two decades, the U.S. is still prepared to deal with someone using chemical weapons against American troops. The attack is more likely to come from terrorists these days, using primitive, but effective, chemical weapons.

The CBRN equipment is also used by dozens of special CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) warfare response units. These units began forming three years ago and are called CMRF (Consequence Management Response Force) units. Most (about 80 percent) of the 15,000 troops would be reservists (most of them National Guard). In the event of terrorists using Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear weapons in the United States, one or more of these units would be sent to the site of the attack, along with their specialized equipment, to deal with the aftereffects, and contain the damage.

This is something that has been knocking around since the 1990s. In the late 1990s there was a proposal to use National Guard and Reserve troops to form ten Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection (RAID) teams. Each would have 22 troops trained and equipped to deal with CBRN attacks. This idea got rolling after the 1995 nerve gas attack, by the Aum Shinrikyo group, in the Tokyo subways. Arguments over how many teams would be formed, how they would be paid for, and who would supply the personnel, and how effective the teams would be, stalled progress. Meanwhile, most large urban areas already had specialists who could handle this sort of thing, and they wanted more money so they could do it better, and faster. Meanwhile, some teams were formed just before, and after, September 11, 2001. But politics (Congress wanted at least one team per state, no matter where the real risks were) and disputes over training, equipment and readiness have delayed much progress on federal teams.

Given the history of all this, it's unlikely that the latest effort will produce much that is useful. As before, the main responsibility for creating a quick response to CBRN attacks will lay with local governments. The military CBRN units, including the ones that already exist, will most likely get there later. The Department of Defense CBRN units will take about three years to train and organize.

 


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