Non-State Actors

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The global strategic environment is growing progressively complicated by an expanding and dynamic network of actors with common motivations and increased access to the technology necessary to develop and employ weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and WMD-like capabilities, ranging from radiological dispersal devices, to toxic chemicals and bio-toxins, to improvised explosive devices, to any combination thereof. Nation states with WMD capabilities and ties to terrorist or criminal networks represent a global proliferation threat that is further complicated by increasing information inter-connectivity and the progressively more complex global demographics created by populations in constant movement.  Terrorist organizations have made clear their intent to develop and employ WMD in pursuit of ideological and political objectives against the United States, her allies and interests.  Considering a history of routinely underestimating the capabilities of violent extremists, these threats should be viewed with legitimate concern for the likelihood of occurrence.

The production and employment of WMD has historically been the domain of nation states, and the threat of terrorists developing and employing similar capabilities has been viewed as highly unlikely given their propensity to operate clandestinely, with limited access to limited resources.  The ability for violent non-state actors to successfully avoid detection while mustering the manpower, technical expertise, and material necessary to develop and employ a WMD makes for great box office drama.  Regardless, a universal hypersensitivity towards WMD proliferation, along with governing local, national, and international laws related to WMD production, distribution, and employment, has kept the ability for terrorists to develop and employ WMD largely in check.  As a result, terrorists and non-state actors have most often dedicated their energies to the effective use of readily available materials, which can be developed locally and quickly employed.

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