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Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense Office


The Office of Health Affairs’ (OHA) Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Biodefense Office leads the Department’s biological and chemical defense activities in coordination with other Departments and agencies across the federal government.

WMD and Biodefense integrates the bio-monitoring activities of executive branch departments that include biosurveillance, aerosol detection, environmental animal surveillance, clinical syndrome detection, mail room observation, and suspicious substance management. With the Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T), WMD and Biode­fense leads the Department’s efforts for veterinary and agro-defense activities, covering animal and zoonotic diseases and agricultural security issues related to livestock, food, and water.

The WMD and Biodefense Office comprises five parts: 

  • National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) 
  • Food, Agriculture, and Veterinary (FAV) defense 
  • Threats and countermeasures 
  • Early detection 
  • Chemical defenses


National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) integrates bio-monitoring activities of executive branch departments to provide a biological common operating picture and facilitate earlier detection of adverse events and trends. This Center fuses information from more than 12 federal agencies and state, local, private sector, and international sources of biosurveillance data on human, animal, plant, and environmental health to provide early warnings of a possible biological attack or a pandemic.

Food, Agriculture, and Veterinary (FAV) Defense coordinates with federal partners and other public and private entities to ensure awareness, readiness, and response to all disasters related to food, animals, agriculture, and their impact on public health. FAV provides advice to Department leadership on all security issues regarding food, water, agro-defense, veterinary and zoonotic diseases (public health). For example, FAV—in conjunction with other OHA and Department components, as well as various federal agencies—seeks to identify the course of events and determine the effects on the nation in regards to animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease, Avian Influenza, Rift Valley Fever, and Wheat Rust, as well as nationwide food contamination events.

Threats and Countermeasures helps to advance the effectiveness of Project BioShield, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, through utilization of information derived from the Material Threat Determinations and Population Threat Assessments to identify medical countermeasures. This division also seeks to better understand the risk of current and emerging biological and chemical threats.

Early Detection provides a bio-aerosol environmental monitoring system to our nation’s largest population centers for early detection of biological agents. Currently operational in over 30 urban metropolitan areas, BioWatch is a collaborative effort of health personnel at all levels of government. As S&T’s research and development personnel continue to improve current technologies, OHA will incorporate these enhancements for greater detection and cost efficiencies. BioWatch also works closely with its federal, state and local partners, providing the infrastructure needed to further the Department’s biodefense mission.

Chemical Defense seeks to save lives and expedite support to limit suffering and illness in the event of a catastrophic chemical attack. This division provides leadership and direction to assist in the nation’s preparedness against a chemical attack and ensure the execution of an effective response. As part of the mission, the division deploys the Rapidly Deployable Chemical Detection System at various public events.


The WMD and Biodefense Office led by Mr. Robert R. Hooks.

This page was last reviewed / modified on August 13, 2009.

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