Chemical and Biological Defense:

Coordination of Nonmedical Chemical and Biological R&D Programs

NSIAD-99-160: Published: Aug 16, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 23, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the coordination of federal research and development (R&D) efforts to develop nonmedical technology related to chemical and biological (CB) defense, focusing on: (1) federal programs that conduct nonmedical CB defense-related R&D; and (2) the existing mechanisms for coordinating these programs.

GAO noted that: (1) four federal programs that fund R&D of nonmedical CB defense technologies are: (a) Department of Defense's (DOD) Chemical and Biological Defense Program; (b) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Biological Warfare Defense Program; (c) Department of Energy's (DOE) Chemical and Biological Nonproliferation Program; and (d) Counterterror Technical Support Program conducted by the Technical Support Working Group; (2) all of these programs pursue R&D ranging from applied research to prototype development; (3) two of these programs, the Chemical and Biological Defense Program and Biological Warfare Defense Program, develop technologies primarily for military warfighting applications; (4) the other two programs develop CB defense technologies primarily to assist civilians responding to terrorist incidents; (5) the formal and informal program coordination mechanisms may not ensure that potential overlaps, gaps, and opportunities for collaboration are addressed; (6) coordinating mechanisms lack information on prioritized user needs, validated CB defense equipment requirements, and how programs relate R&D projects to these needs; (7) in particular, domestic preparedness needs are specified with significantly less detail than military needs; (8) furthermore, two programs--those in DARPA and DOE--do not formally utilize user requirements in planning their R&D goals; (9) more detailed information about user needs, validated CB defense equipment requirements, and how user needs relate to R&D projects may allow coordination mechanisms to better assess whether overlaps, gaps, and opportunities for collaboration exist; (10) agency officials are aware of the deficiencies in the existing coordination mechanisms and some have initiated additional informal contacts in response; and (11) informal coordination between DOD and DOE has been particularly active.

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