Weapons of Mass Destruction

The FBI is the lead federal agency for responding to threats from weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The Bureau investigates and collects intelligence on WMD-related threats and incidents to prevent attacks and respond to them when they occur.

Established in 2006, the WMD Directorate (WMDD) is part of the FBI’s National Security Branch. The WMDD leads the FBI’s efforts to mitigate threats from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive weapons.

WMD Basics

Definition of WMD

A WMD is defined by U.S. law as any of the following:

  • A destructive device, such as an explosive or incendiary bomb, rocket, or grenade;
  • A weapon that is designed to cause death or serious injury through toxic or poisonous chemicals;
  • A weapon that contains a biological agent or toxin; or
  • A weapon that is designed to release dangerous levels of radiation or radioactivity.

WMDD Programs 

The WMDD provides leadership and expertise to domestic and foreign law enforcement, academia, and industry partners on WMD issues. The FBI approaches these issues through four major areas: preparedness, countermeasures, investigations/operations, and intelligence.


The WMDD prepares the FBI and its U.S. government partners to respond to WMD threats by developing comprehensive strategic and operational plans. Training exercises not only enhance the FBI’s capabilities, but they also improve collaboration with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. 


A critical part of the FBI’s work in preventing and responding to WMD attacks are special agents who serve as WMD coordinators in all 56 field offices and in some overseas FBI offices. WMD coordinators build relationships with partners in law enforcement and the private sector. The goal of these relationships is to promote information sharing and ensure the FBI has an early warning of emerging WMD threats.

As part of the countermeasures program, WMDD personnel work with academic and industry partners to protect advances in scientific research and biotechnology development and to prevent the misuse of biological knowledge, material, and technology. The WMDD also supports U.S. health security in part by coordinating with Global Health Security Agenda partners to prevent, detect, and respond to biological incidents.

Investigations and Operations

The WMDD manages WMD-related investigations and leads the FBI’s coordination and investigative response to those threats and incidents. In addition to U.S. operations, WMDD agents in international locations assist host countries with training and WMD response, as appropriate.

The FBI investigates the malicious damaging or destruction, by means of an explosive, of property used in interstate or foreign commerce. These matters include the bombing or attempted bombing of college or university facilities and incidents that appear to have been perpetrated by terrorist or revolutionary groups. The FBI also investigates bombings in the U.S. and overseas where incidents were acts of terrorism against U.S. persons or interests. Bombings are also under the ATF jurisdiction, so there are often collaborative investigations of large-scale incidents. The FBI collects evidence, interviews witnesses, develops leads, and identifies and apprehends the person or persons responsible. The FBI also assists U.S. Attorneys in preparing evidence or exhibits for trial.

Asset Forfeiture

Asset forfeiture is a powerful tool used by law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, against criminals and criminal organizations to deprive them of their property used illegally and their ill-gotten gains through seizure of these assets. It is also used to compensate victims of crime. Learn more about the FBI’s asset forfeiture program and to see forfeiture in action.


Intelligence-driven investigations help the FBI and its U.S. government partners prevent and respond to WMD incidents. The WMDD’s intelligence analysts develop relevant and actionable intelligence related to WMD threats, including intelligence on WMD proliferation and other criminal activities.

Security Awareness Videos

This video offers a realistic scenario that emphasizes the importance of maintaining awareness in retail stores and reporting suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. It is designed to be viewed by salespersons, cashiers, customer service representatives, and any employee who interacts with customers. Store managers, security personnel, and loss prevention officers will also benefit from viewing the video.
This video offers a realistic scenario that emphasizes the importance of maintaining awareness in the academic laboratory environment and reporting suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. It is designed to be viewed by faculty, students, and staff who work in and around laboratories, chemicals, and equipment. Industrial laboratory employees will also benefit from viewing the video.
Video illustrates why willingness and ability of radiation safety officers and security officers to report suspicious behavior is critical to protecting the country against radiological threats.

Contact Us 

To report suspicious activity involving chemical, biological, or radiological materials, call this toll-free number: 855-TELL-FBI (855-835-5324). For more on reaching out to the FBI, including submitting an online tip, read our Contact Us page which provides detailed information, such as additional phone numbers and the addresses of our local and international offices.