Pentagon plans for smallpox outbreak
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
From the International Desk
Published 12/13/2002 4:36 PM
Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The military could be called on to keep order and
quarantine affected areas if there were a smallpox outbreak in the
United States, according to a Defense Department response plan completed
White House and Pentagon unveiled plans Friday to begin vaccinating
health-care workers and as many as 500,000 military personnel against
the release of smallpox on the battlefield, but it also has a step-by-step
guide for military commanders in the event of a domestic biological
the disease was finally eradicated in 1979, a single case of smallpox
would be considered to be the result of a germ warfare attack. There
are only two known stocks of the disease -- in the United States
and Russia -- but the U.S. government fears that some of the stock
may have been stolen and sold on the black market.
would kill one-third of its victims if they are not treated in time,
according to the Centers for Disease Control.
newly organized U.S. Northern Command, currently headed by Air Force
Gen. Ralph Eberhart, would be in charge of coordinating military
support for a domestic biological attack.
the military is generally prohibited from performing law enforcement
duties on American soil under a law known as the Posse Comitatus
Act, the military can be pressed into service by civilian authorities
in the event of an emergency.
personnel would generally not be carrying weapons to enforce the
quarantine in the event of a biological weapons attack. However,
they could be deployed to the affected area with weapons, and the
weapons would be secured in a warehouse in case they are needed.
Weapons would only be carried with the express order by the secretary
of defense and the attorney general, according to a Defense Department
smallpox response plan released in September.
military commanders may use troops at local civilian authority request
without approval from the Pentagon to save lives, prevent human
suffering and mitigate great property damage, according to the plan.
outbreak of smallpox in the United States could seriously infringe
on military activities, as flights and troop movement would be cut
to a minimum to slow the potential spread of the disease. Those
within one hour of ground transportation -- or one leg of a commercial
flight originating at an airport within an hour ground transport
of an infected area -- would be considered the most likely to have
personnel might also be pressed into mortuary-related duties in
the event of mass casualties
© 2002 United Press International