New Navy Policy on Biological Select Agents

The U.S. Navy has issued its first security policy (pdf) for protection of “biological select agents and toxins” (BSAT) at Navy facilities, a move that may signify heightened Navy interest in research involving these lethal materials.

Select agents are substances designated by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture that “present a high bioterrorism risk to national security and have the greatest potential for adverse public health impact with mass casualties of humans and/or animals or that pose a severe threat to plant health or to plant products.” A few dozen particular biological agents and toxins have been so designated (pdf), including ebola and smallpox viruses, botulinum, etc.

There are currently two Navy facilities in the United States that have possession of select agents and toxins, according to the new policy: Naval Surface War Center (NSWC) Dahlgren and the Navy Medical Research Center.

“The Navy may increase the number of facilities in the future, and other Navy facilities may gain access or possession of BSAT due to non-routine events,” the document states.

The Navy policy implements a 2004 Department of Defense Directive (pdf) on protecting biological select agents, and a 2006 Instruction (pdf) from the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

See “Minimum Security Standards for Safeguarding Biological Select Agents and Toxins (BSAT),” Chief of Naval Operations OPNAV Instruction 5530.16, July 20, 2007.

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