Remembering yesteryear: President Richard Nixon ends U.S. biological weapons program and statement on chemical weapons

September 2, 2013

Did you know?, Remember yesteryear

Remembering yesteryear: President Richard Nixon ends U.S. biological weapons program and statement on chemical weapons

In November 1969, President Richard Nixon surprised the American public, and the world, by ordering the United States to unilaterally discontinue its biological weapons program, thus ending further research into their development. Though this decision came as a shock to many who operated the offensive biological warfare program at Fort Detrick, Pine Bluff Arsenal, Dugway Proving Ground, and elsewhere, its seeds had been planted years earlier.
Source: PBS

Video: President Richard Nixon -Fort Detrick biological warfare program


Statement 461

Richard Nixon: “Statement on Chemical and Biological Defense Policies and Programs” November 25, 1969

President Richard Nixon
Soon after taking office I directed a comprehensive study of our chemical and biological defense policies and programs. There had been no such review in over 15 years. As a result, objectives and policies in this field were unclear and programs lacked definition and direction.

Under the auspices of the National Security Council, the Departments of State and Defense, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Office of Science and Technology, the intelligence community, and other agencies worked closely together on this study for over 6 months. These Government efforts were aided by contributions from the scientific community through the President’s Science Advisory Committee.

This study has now been completed and its findings carefully considered by the National Security Council. I am now reporting the decisions taken on the basis of this review.


As to our chemical warfare program, the United States:

–Reaffirms its oft-repeated renunciation of the first use of lethal chemical weapons.

–Extends this renunciation to the first use of incapacitating chemicals. Consonant with these decisions, the administration will submit to the Senate, for its advice and consent to ratification, the Geneva Protocol of 1925* which prohibits the first use in war of “asphyxiating, poisonous or other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.” The United States has long supported the principles and objectives of this Protocol. We take this step toward formal ratification to reinforce our continuing advocacy of international constraints on the use of these weapons.

*League of Nations Treaty Series (vol. 94, p. 65).


Biological weapons have massive, unpredictable and potentially uncontrollable consequences. They may produce global epidemics and impair the health of future generations. I have therefore decided that:

–The United States shall renounce the use of lethal biological agents and weapons, and all other methods of biological warfare.

–The United States will confine its biological research to defensive measures such as immunization and safety measures.

–The Department of Defense has been asked to make recommendations as to the disposal of existing stocks of bacteriological weapons.

In the spirit of these decisions, the United States associates itself with the principles and objectives of the United Kingdom Draft Convention which would ban the use of biological methods of warfare.** We will seek, however, to clarify specific provisions of the draft to assure that necessary safeguards are included.

**Annex to United Nations General Assembly Document of November 3, 1969 (A/7741 DC/232).

Neither our association with the Convention nor the limiting of our program to research will leave us vulnerable to surprise by an enemy who does not observe these rational restraints. Our intelligence community will continue to watch carefully the nature and extent of the biological programs of others.

These important decisions, which have been announced today, have been taken as an initiative toward peace. Mankind already carries in its own hands too many of the seeds of its own destruction. By the examples we set today, we hope to contribute to an atmosphere of peace and understanding between nations and among men.
Statement 462

Richard Nixon: “Statement on Chemical and Biological Defense Policies and Programs” November 25, 1969

Note: The President spoke at 10:31 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.

Ladies and gentlemen:

I have just completed a meeting with the legislative leaders of the House and the Senate, the Foreign Relations and the Armed Services Committees.

In that meeting, we discussed some major initiatives in the disarmament field, initiatives that are the result of decisions that have been made after a Security Council meeting that was held last week.

I would like to summarize the decisions that have been made as a result of the Security Council meeting and the meetings with the legislative leaders, and also to indicate the actions that we hope will be taken by the Senate to affirm the decisions that the administration has made.

The United States is taking two steps today toward advancing the cause of peace and reducing the terror of war. Since this administration took office, the National Security Council has been reviewing our policy regarding chemical warfare and biological warfare. This has been the first thorough review ever undertaken of this subject at the Presidential level.

I recall during the 8 years that I sat on the National Security Council in the Eisenhower administration that these subjects, insofar as an appraisal of what the United States had, what our capability was, what other nations had, were really considered taboo.

And it was felt when we came into the administration that we should examine all of our defense policies and defense capabilities, because it has always been my conviction that what we don’t know usually causes more fear than what we do know.

What we have tried to do in this examination by the Security Council, an unprecedented examination, is to find the facts and to develop the policies based on the facts as they are, rather than on our fears as to what the facts might be.

On the basis of this review, I made a number of decisions which I believe will sharply reduce the chance that these weapons, either chemical or bacteriological, will ever be used by any nation.

First, in the field of chemical warfare, I hereby reaffirm that the United States will never be the first country to use chemical weapons to kill. And I have also extended this renunciation to chemical weapons which incapacitate.

I am asking the United States Senate for its advice and consent in the ratification of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibits the first use in war of chemical warfare weapons.

Since 1925, this proposal has been affirmed by the United States as a matter of policy, but never approved by the United States Senate.

And I have asked the leaders this morning to expedite action in this field.

These steps should go a long way toward outlawing weapons whose use has been repugnant to the conscience of mankind.

Second, biological warfare, which is commonly called germ warfare–this has massive, unpredictable, and potentially uncontrollable consequences. It may produce global epidemics and profoundly affect the health of future generations.

Therefore, I have decided that the United States of America will renounce the use of any form of deadly biological weapons that either kill or incapacitate.

Our bacteriological programs in the future will be confined to research in biological defense, on techniques of immunization, and on measures of controlling and preventing the spread of disease.

I have ordered the Defense Department to make recommendations about the disposal of existing stocks of bacteriological weapons.

This program of research and development, incidentally, can have a very important byproduct for the United States and for the world, because we thereby, we think, can break new ground with regard to immunization for any kind of diseases that might spread either nationally or internationally.

The United States positively shall associate itself with the principles of the Draft Convention prohibiting the use of biological weapons of warfare presented by the United Kingdom and the U.N. Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Conference on August 26, 1969.

Up to this time, only Canada has indicated support of this United Kingdom initiative.

The United States, as of today, now indicates its support of this initiative and we hope that other nations will follow suit.

Mankind already carries in its own hands too many of the seeds of its own destruction. By the examples that we set today, we hope to contribute to an atmosphere of peace and understanding between all nations.
Thank you.
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The NIAID Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (RCEs) support research focused on countering threats from bioterror agents and emerging infectious diseases. Each Center is comprised of a consortium of universities and research institutions serving a specific geographical region. The Centers, located throughout the United States, will build and maintain a strong scientific infrastructure supporting multifaceted research and development activities that promote scientific discovery and translational research capacity required to create the next generation of therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics.

George Mason University National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases 
The National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases (NCBID) was founded in 2001 to address the challenges to national and international security posed by biological terrorism. The scope of the center has evolved to include the study of infectious diseases that are emerging from populations around the world and are attributable, in part, to today’s internationally mobile society.


The mission of the The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CBEID) is to reduce the vulnerability of the United States and other nations to the use of biological weapons for warfare and terrorism, and to alleviate suffering from emerging and tropical infectious diseases through application of basic, applied, and field research, and through education.

Washington University’s MRCE is a network of scientists the states of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri as well as representative institutions from Cleveland, Ohio. We are dedicated to supporting the NIAID’s strategic plan of improving national defenses against bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases. Our mission is to expand the scope and quality of research in biodefense and emerging infectious diseases throughout the region, with the goal of developing the next generation of diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics against selected biologic threats.


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s SERCEB is one of eleven Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) to support basic and translational research focused on emerging infections and potential bioterror agents that may threaten the health of our nation. Now in its eighth year, SERCEB is headquartered at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and supports investigators at more than ten institutions across the Southeast (Region IV).

The University of Maryland-Baltimore’s MARCE consortium fosters research that contributes to the defense of the population of the United States of America against biological threats including the deliberate release of bioterror agents and the natural emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases. As part of its formally defined mission, the MARCE also maintains interactions with public health authorities within the Middle Atlantic Region so that if the need arises, the consortium can mobilize its technical resources to assist the region’s public health authorities in the face of a large or unusual outbreak of disease, presumed bioterror incident or other catastrophe.

Columbia University’s Northeast Biodefense Center (NBC), a consortium of academic and governmental biomedical research institutions from New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, and strategic partners from other states has been awarded a multi-year federal grant for biodefense research.


Harvard University’s New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (NERCE) is a network of research collaborations that supports basic science and translational research for the development of preventive and therapeutic interventions against Priority Pathogens listed by NIAID as emerging and re-emerging infectious disease threats. The Center is a focal point for New England’s research and development in Priority Pathogens, and it seeks to apply recent dramatic advances in genomics, proteomics, structural biology, immunology, vaccinology, chemistry, drug screening, and material sciences to problems of importance in combating these threats. The NERCE effort is directed towards catalyzing collaborative work, creative thinking, and innovative solutions to the myriad challenges posed by infectious diseases.

A NIAID-funded research center, NERCE includes investigator-initiated research programs and state-of-the-art core laboratories and resources that provide critical services for Priority Pathogen research. These services include microbiology and animal model support, high-throughput screening, large-scale biological molecule production, confocal microscopy, and live-cell imaging. NERCE is also registered to provide surge capacity for testing of clinical samples for the CDC-sponsored Laboratory Response Network in the case of a biological emergency.

Any investigator at a private or public institution based within the New England states (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT) is eligible for NERCE support.

University of Chicago’s Great Lakes RCE (GLRCE) is a consortium of 27 academic and research institutions in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin and is administered by its Administrative Core at the University of Chicago.

Colorado State University’s RMRCE research program is designed to emphasize basic research and translational activities that ultimately lead to products and information that address threats from naturally emerging pathogens or bioterrorism mediated events.

Colorado State University’s RMRCE research is centered around two integrated research focus (IRF) groups that target the thematic research efforts on bacterial therapeutics and viral therapeutics. The research and product development efforts of the IRF groups are directed at a variety of NIH Category A-C pathogens.

Three scientific cores and extensive BSL3 facilities within the region facilitate this effort. The RMRCE is committed to investigator-directed research programs. These programs include: Research Projects, Developmental Projects and New Opportunities.

University of California, Irvine’s Pacific Southwest Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (PSW RCE) was funded in May, 2005 by the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The PSW RCE serves Region IX and is one of ten nationally funded Centers which support the NIAID Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research Agenda.

Participating Institutions
•Northern Arizona University
•University of Arizona

•California Department of Public Health
•City of Hope National Medical Center
•Stanford University
•The Scripps Research Institute
•United States Dept. of Agriculture – ARS
•University of California Berkeley
•University of California Davis
•University of California Irvine
•University of California Los Angeles
•University of California San Francisco
•University of California San Diego
•University of California Santa Barbara
•University of Southern California

•University of Hawaii at Manoa

•University of Nevada, Reno

Out of Region Collaborators

•University of Wisconsin, Madison

North Carolina
•University of North Carolina

•Ministry of Health
Oregon Health & Science University’s Pacific Northwest Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (PNWRCE) brings together a consortium of investigators with extensive expertise and basic and translational research capacity directed at a broad range of NIAID, Category A–C Priority Pathogens. Our research activities are aimed at providing a deeper understanding of pathogen-host interactions; how these interactions impact innate and adaptive immune responses; and the age-related defects in immunity that lead to immunosenescence and an increased vulnerability to infectious disease. The information generated from these activities will facilitate the development of next-generation therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines against Category A–C Pathogens.

The PNWRCE will also train young investigators for biodefense and emerging infectious disease research, foster the development of new research programs, and provide facilities and scientific support to first-line responders in the event of a national biodefense or emerging infectious disease emergency.
University of Washington’s Northwest Regional Center of Excellence (NWRCE) is one of eleven regional Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research. These centers have been established by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) , a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses.

The NWRCE is an academic program of basic research, education, and training in biodefense and emerging infectious diseases. The University of Washington is the recipient of this Center, which is internationally recognized for its infectious disease research and clinical faculty. The RCE also includes investigators from other leading research institutions located throughout Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Oregon. The Center conducts basic and applied research on bacterial pathogenesis with the goal of using that information to develop new treatments, vaccines and related technologies. The emphasis of the NWRCE research program takes advantage of the broad range of our investigators’ experience in Gram-negative bacterial pathogenesis. The RCE also supports other infectious disease research and training through the awarding of short-term developmental grants.

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