Kosal Appointed to National Academies Committees on Bioterrorism, Chemical Threats

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recently appointed Margaret E. Kosal, associate professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, to two committees mandated by Congress to help better prepare the U.S. against nuclear, biological, and chemical threats.

Kosal will serve as vice chair of the committee on Assessing and Improving Strategies for Preventing, Countering, and Responding to Weapons of Mass (WMD) Destruction Terrorism: Chemical Threats. She will help coordinate activities of that group with the committee on biological threats, where she is also a member. A third committee will evaluate nuclear threats and potential responses.

“Each committee is independent, yet everyone appreciates that efforts to prevent, counter, and respond to WMD terrorism, especially biological and chemical threats, are often inter-linked,” Kosal said. “There’s a lot of inherent complexity in how different groups respond to them in various situations.”

NASEM chose Kosal for these committees because of her cutting-edge research and expertise in related fields. Kosal, also an affiliated faculty member at the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, researches ways to reduce the threat of WMDs and the intersection between emerging technologies and security.

The biological threats committee consists of social scientists and life scientists who will work to assess potential biological threat responses. They will first determine the policy and technical capabilities of forensic and attribution efforts that examine biological threats of unknown or questionable origin. Later, they will analyze mis- and dis-information campaigns that could hinder efforts to prevent, detect, and accurately attribute such threats.

The chemical threats committee’s mission calls for the group to “address the adequacy of strategies to prevent, counter, and respond to chemical terrorism, and identify technical, policy, and resource gaps.” Two of the group's six study areas are related to Kosal’s expertise: Identifying national and international chemical risks and critical emerging threats as well as structural issues such as funding.

“These committees address issues related to WMDs that have become increasingly prominent,” Kosal said. “I am honored to have the chance to work with a diverse, dedicated group of scientists to unpack all of the complex topics involved in these studies.”

The 2022 Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress called for NASEM to create the committees. The biological threats committee aims to wrap up in late summer or early fall, while the chemical threats group will work for about a year. Kosal was recently in Washington for a planning meeting for the chemical threats committee.

As vice chair of the group, Kosal will support the chair, Timothy Sheppod of Sandia National Laboratories, in coordinating with the committee and NASEM staff. Kosal will work to develop consensus among committee members as they develop, write, and review the study report.

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