WASHINGTON – On Dec. 21, 2023, Assistant Secretary for the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) Mary Ellen Callahan celebrated the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Office and renewed the call for its reauthorization.
“The threat of weapons of mass destruction terrorism is real. Five years ago, in the face of a dynamic, evolving threat environment, legislators recognized that the U.S. needed a more holistic approach to countering chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats to the Homeland," said CWMD Assistant Secretary Mary Ellen Callahan. “By authorizing CWMD, the legislators enabled us to enhance and coordinate the chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear detection efforts of federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to improve preparedness and response capabilities throughout the United States. We look forward to continuing this essential mission to protect the American people.”
Congress established the CWMD Office in 2018 to elevate, consolidate, and streamline DHS efforts to protect the Homeland from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats. CWMD serves as the DHS nexus for WMD and CBRN coordination, which includes providing direct financial and operational support nationwide to government and industry partners for full-time biological detection, illicit nuclear material detection, training, and exercises. Additionally, as part of the President’s Executive Order on AI signed in October 2023, President Biden tasked CWMD with helping to evaluate and mitigate the potential for AI to be used to develop WMDs, such as through AI-enabled misuse of synthetic nucleic acids to create biological weapons. The President directed the CWMD Office to evaluate the potential for AI to lower the barriers to entry for developing WMD and to develop a framework to evaluate and stress test synthetic-nucleic acid screening, creating a standardized set of expectations for third parties that audit AI systems to prevent the risk of abuse and proliferation by malicious actors.