Despite all the precautions that we take, all the defensive systems that we have in place, and all the international agreements aimed at removing weapons of mass destruction from the planet, we must be prepared to answer any WMD-related question that begins with these two words: “What if?”

As the DoD’s Combat Support Agency for combating weapons of mass destruction, one of our main responsibilities is to plan, train, exercise, test, inspect and assess our military forces that have to deal with weapons of mass destruction. The Defense Nuclear Weapons School prepares thousands of our uniformed service members to answer the “What if” questions that come up all the time.

“What if” might refer to an industrial accident that releases toxic chemicals or radiation into the air – just like the Fukushima nuclear power plant did after a tsunami hit Japan. “What if” could mean a naturally occurring biological hazard that reaches epidemic status – just like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. There’s even a chance “What if” could be a good thing, like a need to destroy a vast amount of WMD when a country suddenly gives up its stockpile due to international pressure – as was the case when Syria had 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons material that needed to be eliminated. In each of those cases, we were ready, and when those “What ifs” became reality, our WMD experts were able to provide solutions.