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Intelligence analysis shows terrorist groups are actively pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) capabilities, are using battlefield environments to test them, and may be working to incorporate these methods into external operations in ways we have not seen previously. It is over this backdrop that the US has been stepping up more efforts to prevent and confront nuclear terrorism.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the establishment of its Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office.  The new office will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. interests.

According to dhs.gov, the office consolidates key DHS functions and will lead the Department’s efforts to counter WMD threats. It will also allow for greater policy coordination and strategic planning, as well as provide greater visibility for this critically important mission.

“The United States faces rising danger from terrorist groups and rogue nation states who could use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents to harm Americans,” said Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “That’s why DHS is moving towards a more integrated approach, bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action.  As terrorism evolves, we must stay ahead of the enemy and the establishment of this office is an important part of our efforts to do so.”

The DHS announcement said certain weapons of mass destruction, once viewed as out-of-reach for all but nation-states, are now closer to being attained by non-state actors.  A terrorist attack using such a weapon against the US would have a profound and potentially catastrophic impact.