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Joined Up Thinking – Part 2

With a view to the renewal of the NATO Defence Against Terrorism Programme, Professor Lightfoot was invited to speak at the NATO Anthrax Workshop, as part of the Counter Terror Expo in London this April.

He presented an Anthrax Attack Scenario to set the scene for the workshop and co-chaired the meeting with Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO HQ in Belgium.

The main issue under discussion was civil military collaboration in the context of bioterrorist attack, with a view to NATO refining their 2013 programme and identifying gaps in their current response systems.

Professor Lightfoot opened his presentation with two simulated news clips – as if an Anthrax attack were real breaking news. He had commissioned the production company EIOKAY to film these news broadcasts in preparation for the workshop and was impressed with the immediate effect on his audience – their attention was undivided and they were thinking themselves directly into the situation.

The main challenge in such an attack is response time. By the time that the attack has been detected, a large number of people will have moved and the sooner the civilian authorities are able to distribute antibiotics the less the potential for loss of life.

NATO is a big organisation with huge capability, but specifically in preparation for military response. The speed of progression of a bioterrorist attack would test their system and as such they are developing a new phase of their remit – that of civil military cooperation.

NATO’s total capabilities usually take about a week to be properly deployed, but their nascent Rapid Reaction Force will be able to respond much more rapidly. The RRF hails from the Operations Division of the Civil Military Planning Section and the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre and is able to field a team at 24 hours notice. The RFF is yet to be used in bio-terrorism scenarios, but they will begin rehearsals in the near future.

The workshop proved incredibly useful and the team were able to make clear recommendations to NATO for swift progress as follows:

  1. Develop a Standardised Range of Scenarios to help determine their contribution to civilian military response in the context of bio-terrorist attack
  2. Run a Large-Scale Anthrax Exercise to assess the capabilities, identify gaps and define the tools required for coordinated international response
  3. Rehearse Rapid Response Deployment on a regular basis
  4. Review the Virtual Stockpile of antibiotics and other medical counter measures
  5. Create an Inventory of National Capabilities
  6. Establish a Virtual Institute of Risk Communication
  7. Promote the concept of Sharing Between Governments
  8. Commission Academic Research

In the words of Professor Lightfoot, ‘the workshop was very effective in bringing out the issues that need further work. The next step is for NATO to

consider a large scale exercise and I look forward to seeing the Defence Against Terrorism Programme for 2013, in particular more use of dramatic simulated news items – which gets people sitting on the edge of their seats.’