Jul 19

Introduction to Biodefense

Biodefense is a broad term that encompasses not only biological weapons but chemical ones too. The difference being that chemical weapons are not naturally occurring but are created, biological weapons on the other hand are viruses and bacteria that inflict disease among people and typically can be found in nature. FAS is a great source when looking for information on this topic. Here are a few brief examples of what can be found.

Chemical weapons have been a fairly recent development with their creation and use beginning during the First World War. The weapon of choice at that point was a “gas” such as tear or mustard; even phosgene and chlorine were implemented.  Chemical weapons were heavily utilized during WWI but after the Geneva Protocol was adopted their use was minimal. Most of the R&D for these types of weapons has focused more on the delivery system then increasing the toxicity. Sarin is one example of a chemical nerve agent; it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, man-made chemical. Cyanide is an example of a blood agent that can either be a solid, or a gas (which is its most lethal form).

The use of biological weapons on the other hand dates back as early as the 12th century when the Hittites drove diseased animals and people into enemy territory. The Mongols catapulted bodies infected with the plague into cites they seized and British soldiers gave blankets contaminated with small pox to Native Americans during the Pontiac’s War. Another branch of biological weapons are toxins which are non-living agents but come from living organisms such as mandrake root or roots of the hellebore plant.

Regulating bioweapons began with the Geneva Protocol in 1925, where the first control placed on biological weapons forbade their use in warfare. The BTWC or Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention took place in 1972 and since then the document has been open for States to sign and ratify. These States have agreed not to produce biological weapons and other toxins.  Since then there has been much discussion on potential dual use research and many safeguards put into place. For more information check out FAS’s Biosecurity Program and check Twitter and Facebook for more “Did you Know?”

Jul 12

A Brief Nuclear History

The United States was the first country to develop the atomic bomb in 1945. They are the only country to date that has utilized it in combat. While the U.S. was the first to get the atomic bomb they definitely were not the last. After the detonation of the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki a nuclear age had begun and other countries completed development of their own nuclear weapons. Russia was the first to do so after the U.S. which would later lead to the Cold War between the two.

 In 1945 after the bombs were dropped the Federation of Atomic Scientists was founded by many of the scientists who built the first atomic bomb, such as Hans Bethe, on the basis that scientists and engineers have the ethical responsibility to ensure that their ideas and developments are applied to the benefit of humankind. The organization was changed to the Federation of American Scientists in 1946 where they advocated for the U.S. nuclear

program to be controlled by civilians and not the government. After strong advocacy by FAS and with the support of other groups the McMahon bill or the Atomic Energy Act was signed, which created a civilian agency to support research in nuclear physics. This Act also created an avenue for the development of peaceful nuclear projects such as the generation of energy.  

Throughout the years both the U.S. and Russia performed nuclear tests but both came under significant pressure to end testing in the early 60s. In 1968 the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was signed. The NPT acknowledged five nuclear weapons states who said they would not transfer any nuclear, weapons, explosives, or technologies to non-nuclear-weapons states.  While the treaty helps limit the spread of nuclear weapons, the new focus is to disarm instead of just regulate.  While the ultimate goal would be total disarmament, it does not seem to be feasible at this point in time. However, there have been a number of treaties that have moved closer to this goal, such as the START I treaty and most recently the New START Treaty.

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Oct 06

Iran’s Nuclear Program

FAS releases a new Special Report today on “Towards Enhanced Safeguards for Iran’s Nuclear Program”. 

Background Info: 


2011 September 29, International Herald Tribune"An Iran Offer Worth Considering"


2011 September 14, The National: ”Behind the Scenes Politics at Play in Ahmadinejad’s Trip

2011 September 13, The Atlantic: ”On Iran’s Nuclear Program, Science Contradicts Rhetoric” 

2011 September 11, Foreign Policy: “Waiting for Bushehr

Sep 27

New Report: A Nuclear-Free Mirage?

President ObamaCharles P. Blair, director of the Terrorism Analysis Project, interviewed FAS Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy Dr. Robert Standish Norris.

The podcast takes a deeper look at the nuclear policies of the Obama administration—polices that Dr. Norris terms ‘radical’ with regard to their vision of a nuclear weapon free world.

Play the podcast to learn more about the obstacles to President Obama’s goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. 

Read the report here. 

Sep 20

New Report: Russia Concerned as U.S. Moves Forward With Unreliable NATO Missile Defense Shield

Missile defense is still one issue that enjoys bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. The Obama administration’s proposed defensive system is supposed to contain Iran, while strengthening ties with Russia. Unfortunately, missile defense could instead lead to more nuclear weapons and a more dangerous world.

Dr. Yousaf Butt, Scientific Consultant to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), and Dr. Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a new technical assessment about the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) missile defense system proposed by NATO and the United States. In the report, “Upsetting the Reset: The Technical Basis of Russian Concern Over NATO Missile Defense,” they analyzed whether the Russian Federation has a legitimate concern over the proposed NATO-U.S. missile defense system. 

For More Information:
Read the report: High Resolution     Low Resolution 

Read the news release.

Visit the FAS Missile Defense System website

Read more about Missile Defense on the SSP Blog.

Read op-ed “The Delusion of Missile Defense.” 

Jul 27

Breivik’s Treatise Predicts Violent CBRN Attacks

FAS analysts conducted a preliminary analysis of Anders Breivik’s 1500 page treatise —2083: A European Declaration of Independence—and concluded that the nature of his attacks, compounded with the extraordinary content of his manifesto, raise important questions.

Read the report

Follow the Terrorism Analysis Blog

Jul 25


Jul 18

July 19: FAS Expert at Brookings Institution Event on NATO’s Nuclear Future

NATO’s Nuclear Future: The Alliance’s Posture Review, Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in Europe and Arms Control

Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project, will speak at an event on July 19 from 2-3:30 pm at the Brookings Institution. 

In early 2011, NATO launched its Deterrence and Defense Posture Review, which has been tasked to define an appropriate mix of nuclear, conventional and missile defense forces for the 28 nations that are members of the alliance. At a time when some suggest the alliance should reduce or eliminate U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, the review is examining key issues surrounding NATO’s nuclear posture in the current security environment. As NATO reviews its posture, Washington and NATO will also consider how U.S. and Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons might be dealt with in an arms control context.

After the program, panelists will take audience questions.

Event Information


Tuesday, July 19, 2011
2:00 PM to 3:30 PM


Saul/Zilkha Rooms
The Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC



Angela Stent

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Foreign PolicyCenter on the United States and Europe


Hans M. Kristensen

Director, Nuclear Information Project
The Federation of American Scientists

Franklin C. Miller

Principal Member
The Scowcroft Group

Steven Pifer

Senior Fellow, Foreign PolicyCenter on the United States and Europe

Jul 06

$1.1 billion Spent on International Trade in Light Weapons

The Small Arms Survey 2011 reveals that regulation and accountability measures have not kept up with the growth of the private security industry. Despite evidence that some private security companies have engaged in the illegal acquisition of firearms, have lost weapons through theft, or have misused their arsenals, there is no systematic reporting of such misconduct.

The new Survey draws on data from dozens of countries to estimate an annual value of $1.1 billion for the international trade in light weapons. Transfers of Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems—MANPADS—represent the bulk of this total. Carried and fired by a single fighter, MANPADS, travel at supersonic speeds from a shoulder-fired launcher toward the heat signature of an aircraft engine, where they detonate. The development of new MANPADS by China and the Russian Federation is indicative of continued interest in MANPADS.

Small Arms Survey 2011: States of Security.

Small Arms Survey 2011 podcast.

Matt Schroeder, director of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project at the Federation of American Scientists, is available for interviews.

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Jun 29

FAS Releases New Report - Terrorism and the Pakistani Neo-Taliban (PNT)

The greatest threat to Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure comes from jihadists both inside Pakistan and South and Central Asia. While there is appreciation of this danger, there are few substantive studies that identify and explore specific groups motivated and potentially capable of acquiring Pakistani nuclear weapons and/or fissile materials. This report fills that gap by exploring the Pakistani Neo-Taliban (PNT) and the groups that fill its ranks. Read the full report.

Learn more about the Terrorism Analysis Project.