Red Teaming the Biological Sciences for Deliberate Threats

Lisa Zhang, Gigi Kwik Gronvall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article describes the use of “red teaming” to analyze and forecast biological threats to U.S. national security. Red teaming is a method whereby participants adopt an adversarial perspective, and is used to stimulate critical and creative thinking without some of the flaws of other types of threat assessments, including mirror-imaging. Red team analysis is prevalent in the military, security, and commercial realms. There have been widespread calls from government and private organizations to analyze biological threats with a red teaming approach, in order to prioritize resources and to counter a wide array of biological agents. This paper includes a timeline of historical examples of both biological red team simulations and vulnerability probes, and discusses the challenges of conducting realistic, cost-effective modeling of biological agents. Finally, we propose additional analytical tools to the UK Ministry of Defense’s red team framework for the future development of structured, biological red team exercises, and discuss other existing future-oriented threat assessments in this realm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1225-1244
Number of pages20
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 17 2020


  • Biosecurity
  • red team
  • threat assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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