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The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Research Paper

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Updated: Feb 14th, 2022

Historical and Organizational Context

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) was first introduced in 2004. The commission was responsible for examining the capacities as well as challenges of the United States Intelligence Community (U.S. IC) regarding the intentions, capabilities, and activities of international powers (Robb et al., 2005, p. 13). WMD was focused on the design, growth, production, procurement, ownership/control, spread, transfer, testing, potential, and actual use of weapons of mass destruction. The primary cause of the WMD Commission establishment was the failure to discover WMD in Iraq after the upheaval of the reign of Saddam Hussein (Tracey, n.d., p. 1). Leading to the 2003 conflict, President Bush mandated the assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community to emphasize that Iraq’s nuclear program had been reconstituted by Saddam Hussein and asserted the possession of biological and chemical weapons.

The report examined the Intelligence Community’s performance in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan in terms of the war on terrorism. It listed a set of recommendations to reconsider the structure and corporate culture of the intelligence service (Robb et al., 2005, p. 45). Members of the commission argued that evidence presented regarding Iraq was irrelevant, and the collections were largely cut off from those involved in its analysis. Also, the research of the WMD data lacked investigative thoroughness and consistency. Engaged specialists did not consider alternative hypotheses, such as Saddam Hussein’s history of use of WMD. Hence, the WMD report highlights the need to integrate data collectors and analysts as well as improving information shared.

The Rationale for the Study

This study aims to analyze the work of the WMD Commission and provides a better understanding of its historical and organizational context. Another goal is to examine the commission’s principal recommendations related to Intelligence Community management and oversight. There are multiple studies on the Presidential WMD Commission Report; however, further analysis can still be conducted to summarize significant findings and offer more insight into how it can improve the Intelligence Community. The commission’s conclusions provide critical information that can help the intelligence community and empower the public with necessary information about preparedness regarding WMD attacks.

Participants and Methodology

The WMD Commission’s report was created by a team consisting of eight members and headed by two chairpersons: Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb. The commission issued its final statement in March 2005, highlighting major intelligence debacle leading to the September 2001 terror attacks. The members conducted multiple case studies on countries, such as Libya and Afghanistan, and compared them to create the theoretical framework required for the improved comprehension of Iraqs case. They assessed information from different agencies to identify gaps that limited early identification of the potential attack. Finally, employing the acquired data, the commission offered recommendations on how to improve the IC management to avoid failures in the future.

Major Enduring Issues Addressed

The WMD commission released the report covering their major findings on challenges the U.S. Intelligence Community faced. The members also investigated issues related to biological weapons and focused on the security of facilities involved in the creation of protective measures and control. The report concluded that despite the progress made in addressing concerns over nuclear proliferation, the country failed to tackle the more urgent terrorist threats of biological weapons sufficiently (Robb et al., 2005, p. 110). The state had a lower level of preparedness for combating bioterrorism as compared to nuclear threats. The commission emphasized the need to undertake significant steps to prevent potential attacks using weapons of mass destruction.

Another issue that the report addresses is the limited capacity of the Intelligence Community to collect adequate data. This issue was raised regarding the failure in Iraq and problems associated with it. The report illustrates that information collectors were limited in their ability to interact with persons responsible for data analysis, which also preconditioned numerous flaws (Robb et al., 2005, p. 100). Analysts involved in the project failed to consider an alternative hypothesis and were unable to make the most accurate decision. The commission initiated debates about politicizing specific intelligence assessment actions. In general, the report recommends that the Intelligence Community should act regardless of the political situation to remain effective. Moreover, there is a need to improve collaboration between information collectors and analysis and to attain better results.

Major Recommendations Most Relevant to IC Management and Oversight

The WMD Commission Report presented a set of recommendations to improve the Intelligence Community. In terms of the given study, only three most relevant assumptions are analyzed. The first proposal outlines the need for security culture improvement in biological laboratories in the USA. It presupposes the federal registration of all labs through the use of a improved mechanisms of protection and increased attention provided to the observation of basic rules and regulations designed to guaranteeing better monitoring of the given issue (Arnaudo, n.d., para. 11). It is vital to extend the existing biosecurity and biosafety limitations using specific tools to ensure that the level of threat is minimized and no critical situations will emerge (Robb et al., 2005, p. 515). This step is vital for the preservation of the desired level of safety and protection in the country and strategically important areas.

Another relevant recommendation presupposes the creation of a National Counter Proliferation Center (NCPC) consisting of a limited number of people and responsible for the improved coordination and data collecting related to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, possible threats, and operational planning (Robb et al., 2005, p. 327). The prior goal for the establishment of the given center is the avoidance of misunderstandings or lack of cooperation between data collectors and analysts and the introduction of a paradigm for the enhanced relations between all actors involved in the process. For this reason, the given recommendation seems vital for the creation of a more effective security system in the future.

The third recommendation discussed in terms of the paper is related to the improvement of the work of the Intelligence Community and its basic functions. The commission states that there is a critical need for enhanced, diverse, and independent analysis throughout the IC as it will help to promote the appearance of an alternative hypothesis as a part of the overall analytic process (Robb et al., 405). The given change into the existing framework will also help to ensure that no gaps such as related to Iraq’s case will emerge and the correct investigation of current threats and situations will be acquired. This step is also vital for better monitoring of the work of IC as independent analysts will help to detect flaws in the work of the system.

Issues/ Problems Addressed by the Recommendations

First, the report concluded that the intelligence community was wrong in most of the pre-war judgments related to Iraq and WMD (Coulthart, 2019, p. 824). For this reason, the primary goal of the recommendations mentioned above was to introduce a new paradigm that would help to eliminate issues related to data collection and processing. Thus, the functioning of NCPC is expected to address coordination issues and solve the problem of insufficient data collection related to all existing threats. As it comes from the report, the major flaw was related to the lack of understanding between data collectors, analysts, and their inability to work together to conclude about the existence of a certain risk (Robb et al., 2005, p. 87). For this reason, the idea of NCPC appeared as the response to this problem and its possible solution.

As for the use of independent analysis and the improvement of IC functioning by considering alternative hypotheses, this measure can also be considered a reaction to the previous failure as analysts ignored the existence of other options. Under these conditions, the proposed recommendation offers an approach that presupposes the minimization of the risk of a new failure caused by the aspect of alternatives.

Finally, the extension of biosecurity and biosafety regulations can be viewed as an attempt to respond to the growing threat of terrorist attacks by using pathogens or biological weapons (Laipson, n.d., para. 16). The enhanced work of the IC service regarding this element is vital for the protection of the nation, which means that the introduction of additional measures to eliminate existing issues is a needed strategy.

Impact of Recommendations

The implementation of the proposed recommendations can precondition the appearance of several effects that should be discussed. First of all, the extension of biosecurity regulations and cooperation at the global level with other nations will contribute to the establishment of a framework for improved collaboration and responses to new threats (Laipson, n.d., para. 18). The combined effort, as well as the introduction of additional safety regulations, will help to create a safer environment and minimize the level of risks related to the sphere, which is critically important for the work of IC service. At the same time, another advantage of the given recommendation is the ability to monitor the work of the most important facilities related to the sphere, which can also contribute to better preparedness and responses in case of emergency (Colby & Baker, 2014, p. 51). For this reason, it is vital to accept the given recommendation and follow the outlined strategy.

As for the NCPC’s establishment, its short-term impact presupposes the creation of a team of specialist collecting data about nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and improving the IC’s awareness regarding the given issue. It can be considered a positive effect of the proposed solution that can also have a long-term effect on the work of the defense sector as the improved analysis of possible risks and extended knowledge is vital for the creation of appropriate responses and guaranteeing security to all citizens (Colby & Baker, 2014, p. 52). The work of the given center might demand additional financing, which can be considered a disputable issue because of the high level of investment devoted to the given sphere; however, it is possible to expect that the positive effect will compensate all financial losses or emergencies that might appear because of the lack of relevant information or reports related to current threats.

The implementation of some changes in the work of IC due to the third discussed recommendation can also have some positive effects. First of all, in accordance with the commission’s conclusions, the independent analysis of the work of the U.S. Intelligence Community will improve its functioning because of the opportunity to indicate some gaps in knowledge or information that is available to the service at the moment (Colby & Baker, 2014, p. 49). Moreover, this mechanism can be used to generate alternative theories or assumptions that can later be investigated, which will help to avoid failures.

The non-implementation of the given recommendations might have a negative impact on the work of IC service because of the high risks of flaws similar to those preconditioned creation of the report. It also means that the ability of the USA to respond to emerging threats will be reduced, which is an undesired situation associated with multiple concerns or possible failures. For this reason, the positive effects of the given recommendations can be viewed as the central justification for their acceptance.

Alternatives Considered

The commission considered different alternatives before providing recommendations on the best approach towards WMD attacks. For example, the use of other sources of information for generation of alternative approaches that past information collectors failed to do was discussed as an appropriate option (Robb et al., 2005, p. 162). The report indicates that collectors often acted with the primary goal to confirm the prevailing analytical line, which created more than just analytical problems as it affected the collection as well as analysis of information (Robb et al., 2005, p. 170). The commission also promoted the employment of alternative hypotheses to resist the tendency to force data that rests on current political paradigms (Coulthart, 2019, p. 819). Members of the commission emphasized that new visions would help in the assessment of the WMD program, and it can be easily hidden or obscured under the disguise of dual-use activity (Robb et al., 2005, p. 170). For this reason, one of the possible alternative to the current work of IC and the final recommendations was the creation, proposal, and investigation of the alternative theory that would help to look at the current problem from a different angle and consider all possible perspectives on the resolution of the problem (Kemp, 2016, p. 4). However, the given alternative lacks a structured approach as there is a need for appropriate systemic changes to support the incentive, which also proves the effectiveness of NCPC.

The WMD Commission considered multiple alternatives that go beyond the conventional alternative analysis. For example, regarding the situation in Iraq, the report illustrates that the employment of alternative methods of research offers an imperfect solution to the problem (Robb et al., 2005, p. 150). It suggests the use of additional evaluation techniques to ensure the realization of conclusive solutions. The commission also viewed the option of testing some assumptions by using other teams with their vision of the situation and its possible outcomes (Robb et al., 2005, p. 170). The process involves researching every piece of evidence by considering many factors, such as history, current state, and relevant changes when forming analytical judgments. The board recommends the testing of conventional wisdom throughout the investigative process to make sure a conclusive outcome is reached through rigorous questioning (Robb et al., 2005, p. 171). At the institutional level, the report considered competitive analysis that involves individual investigators questioning their premises and challenging conventional wisdom. Therefore, there is a need to strengthen competitive analysis among intelligence community agencies to facilitate the ability to resist WMD attacks.

The report indicates that the Intelligence Community made critical mistakes when investigating the situation in Iraq, its arms program, and the current state of weapons. Explicitly, the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) illustrated a lack of diligence and technical competence (Robb et al., 2005, p. 172). The commission considered the use of alternative views all based on competitive analysis even though reasonable minds can have different opinions. NGIC analysts were focused on Soviet weapons systems; therefore, they lacked adequate information about g Iraq and U.S.S weapons that could also be used in the region. Thus, the commission considered collaboration between different intelligence agencies for information sharing as a good alternative to the existed approach and an opportunity for improvement (Robb et al., 2005, p. 172).

Another problem indicated in the report is the impact on the political climate on decision-making and the provision of final information regarding the current state of weapons. Analysts used consensus view mostly since they were rewarded for judgments that fit the compromise opinions. CIA complicated the problem as the agency took too long to admit the error committed in Iraq (Silberman, 2015, para. 5). Analysts were discouraged from investigating the failure by Arms Control Center, Weapons Intelligence, and Nonproliferation (Davies, 2020, para. 4). The inability to accept the mistake by institutions responsible for the project also outlined the failure of the Intelligence Community to meet its obligation to consumers of providing accurate intelligence assessment free of politicization influence (Betts, 2007, p. 590). The committee considered existing alternatives and figured a set of specific recommendations that would help to improve the situation and avoid mistakes in the future.

Support or Opposition of Major Stakeholders

The WMD Commission’s report to the President in 2005 preconditioned the appearance of multiple changes. The commission was staffed by institutional insiders who have worked within the country’s national security since the Cold War, such as John McCain, Admiral Willian O. Studeman, and Walter Slocombe. The report received significant support from national security elites because of the emphasis on multiple flaws and problems that should be eliminated to guarantee the stable work of IC. On the other hand, the commission’s report was opposed by several groups; for example, its recommendation of “open-source intelligence center” faced increased criticism from intelligence agencies, such as CIA and contradicted the 9/11 Commission’s call for an Open Source Agency outside CIA’s jurisdiction (Vermeule et al., 2016, para. 7). The Bush administration endorsed and implemented almost all the seventy-four recommendations presented by the WMD Commission. Hence, the commission’s report received both support and opposition from different stakeholders.


The WMD Commission developed a detailed report highlighting mistakes made by the intelligence community following the September 2001 terror attack. The report also recommended major changes and alternatives that could help to minimize risks (Kessler, 2020, para. 8). The commission examined the relevant capacities and challenged the U.S. Intelligence Community regarding its intentions, capabilities, and activities as a global power (Vermeule et al., 2016, para. 7). It mainly focused on the design, growth, production, and procurement of weapons of mass destruction. The report discussed the Intelligence’s Community’s performance in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya and the most effective techniques to prevent future terrorist activities. The commission highlighted the lack of sufficient intelligence gathering capacities and bureaucratic groups that did not want to accept mistakes made. The report also provided various alternatives that the intelligence community should have implemented to prevent errors. It also contained multiple recommendations for the improvement of the situation, such as the creation of NCPC or integration of independent investigators in the work of IC to avoid biased judgments and consider all existing hypotheses. At the same time, the report emphasized the need for improved monitoring of biological threats as one of the relevant problems challenging the USA.


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