Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Skip over global navigation links
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

On the Front Line of Biodefense

Biological Risk Management and Non-Proliferation Activities Supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

The 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, commonly known as the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC),  was the first international treaty to completely prohibit the development, production and stockpiling of an entire class of the biological weapons. By ratifying the Convention, States Parties proclaim their determination “to exclude completely the possibility of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins being used as weapons” and their conviction that “such use would be repugnant to the conscience of mankind and that no effort should be spared to minimize this risk”.

The central prohibitions of the treaty are stated in Article I: “Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain: (1) Microbial or other biological agents or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes; (2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict”.

The risk of biological warfare and bioterrorism has increased but so has the determination of the United States to prevent, deter, and mitigate them, as illustrated by the President’s National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats. When unveiling the Strategy at the BWC Meeting of States Parties in December 2009, the Under Secretary for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher, stated that “The Obama administration’s new strategy for countering biological threats—both natural and man-made—rests upon the main principle of the BWC: that the use of biological weapons is repugnant to the conscience of mankind”.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through its staff and operational divisions, is committed to helping countries build sustainable public health systems to counter biological threats, whether natural or man-made, and leverage key multilateral organizations such as BWC to strengthen strategic partnerships and coordination for global health security.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is supporting the U.S. Department of State in its public diplomacy demarches related to BWC and it has a key role in implementing the BWC tenets through a legal, extant, regulatory, and policy framework on biological risk management, and effective oversight of its biodefense programs.

The Division of Biosafety and Biosecurity in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response coordinates the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services policy and operational support to the U.S. Department of State for implementing the BWC as well as the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (UNSCR 1540).

OPP Divisions

  • This page last reviewed: July 06, 2011