Date of Graduation

Spring 2019


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

John Rose


biological weapons, pathogens, terrorism, state-sponsors, agriculture, biodefense, bioterrorism, agroterrorism

Subject Categories

American Politics | Defense and Security Studies | Health Policy | Other Immunology and Infectious Disease | Other International and Area Studies


In 2002, US Navy Seals found a list of pathogens in an Afghanistan cave that Al Qaeda had planned to use in a series of biological attacks. Unique about the discovery was that the pathogens were not limited to human ones. Six pathogens targeted livestock and four targeted crops. Despite this discovery, limited attention has been given to the possibility of a state-sponsored terrorist attack utilizing biological agents against the US population, food source, or water supply. Throughout history, biological agents have been developed for use as an offensive weapon for both states and terrorist groups. The United States may soon see a successful biological attack by a state or nonstate actor against its troops in the Middle East, the Asia Pacific, or its homeland population and agricultural industry. While it is unlikely that such attacks will occur from traditional terrorist groups, it is possible that a state with a biological weapons program will sponsor a biological terrorist attack as a way of progressing its interests against the United States. This thesis provides a background for understanding biological attacks and examines the threat of a state-sponsored biological terrorist attack against the United States and its assets abroad, what the impact would be, possible scenarios for an attack, and policy recommendations to preventing and containing a futuristic attack.


© Courtney Anne Pfluke

Open Access