Anthrax letters in Sweden? (Eng version dnr 04-62)


  • Castenfors Kerstin
  • Deverell Edward
  • Olsson Eva-Karin

Publish date: 2003-01-01

Report number: FOI-R--0877--SE

Pages: 63

Written in: Swedish


Shortly after the anthrax letter incident in the US in October 2001, suspect mail began to appear in Sweden. During a hectic week in mid-October, the FOI Division for Nuclear, Biological and chemical Defence was the primary Swedish organization for testing letters and similar consignments for traces of anthrax. During this period of time, considerable numbers of letters were tested at the division´s laboratories. At the division´s initiative, the present study was carried out, the aim of which is to examine the division´s capacity to manage the event at hand in different respects. Eighteen members from the division´s managerial and laboratory staff answered questions related to the management of the event. The interviews included questions related to factors recognised as being important for organizational efficiency (command-, coordination- and information-structures, leadership style, group dynamics, and media relations). The interview material was compiled and divided into 14 decision making events by means of a process tracing method. The results show that issues crucial to the division´s capacity to manage the event cohered with phenomena related to putting a dedicated research and advisory oriented body on operative alert. Responding to the situational challenge of the division´s day to day command-, leadership-, information- and media liaison-structures put a considerable strain on the division as a whole but primarily on the managerial group. In the laboratories where personnel were able to operate according to standard procedures, sufficiently staffed teams responded well to the increased demands. In sum, do to the relatively short duration of intense organizational stress, the division as a whole succeeded in managing this extraordinary situation efficiently.