Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced on December 7 the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. The CWMD 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.
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 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 United States faces a rising danger from threat actors who could use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents to harm Americans or U.S. interests. Intelligence analysis shows terrorist groups are actively pursuing 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. 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 United States would have a profound and potentially catastrophic impact on our nation and the world.
The CWMD Office will be led by James McDonnell, who was appointed by President Trump in June 2017 to serve as the Director of the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO).