Biological Weapons: Effort to Reduce Former Soviet Threat Offers Benefits, Poses New Risks [open pdf - 920KB]
The former Soviet Union's biological weapons institutes continue to threaten U.S. national security because they have key assets that are both dangerous and vulnerable to misuse. These assets include as many as 15,000 underpaid scientists and researchers, specialized facilities and equipment (albeit often in a deteriorated condition), and large collections of dangerous biological pathogens. These assets could harm the United States if hostile countries or terrorist groups were to hire the scientists to conduct weapons work. Also of concern is the potential sale of dangerous pathogens to terrorist groups or countries of proliferation concern. The U.S. strategy for addressing the threat of proliferation at the source has been to fund collaborative research efforts with the institutes to (1) reduce their incentives to work with hostile states and groups and (2) increase their openness to the West. Although the executive branch initially began this strategy with a modest level of funding, it is now seeking a tenfold increase in funding in response to mounting efforts by Iran and other countries to acquire biological weapons. GAO found that expanding the program entails risks to the United States, including sustaining Russia's existing biological weapons infrastructure, maintaining or advancing Russian scientists' skills to develop offensive biological weapons, and the potential misuse of U.S. assistance to fund offensive research.
Government Accountability Office (GAO): http://www.gao.gov/