Biodefense in Need of Thorough Examination

The Obama, Bush, and Clinton Administrations enacted policies and programs to increase national resilience to biological and chemical threats. These efforts have involved many federal departments and agencies. Ten years following the report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), and further assessments made by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism (the Graham/Talent WMD Commission), the status and sufficiency of myriad, often disparate, biodefense activities have not been comprehensively assessed.

Panel Recommends Actions

To provide for a comprehensive assessment of the state of U.S. biodefense efforts, former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor Tom Ridge are co-chairing the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former Senator Tom Daschle, former Representative Jim Greenwood, and the Honorable Kenneth Wainstein also serve as members. Four public meetings were convened in Washington, DC on biological and chemical threat awareness, prevention and protection, surveillance and detection, and response and recovery. Current and former Members of Congress, former Administration officials, state and local representatives, thought leaders, and other experts provided their perspectives on current biodefense efforts, including strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.

While much good work has been achieved toward biodefense, these meetings have revealed systemic challenges in the enterprise designed to protect Americans from biological event. The Panel has identified weaknesses and recommended 33 steps the government can take to shore up the national biodefense posture in its report, ​A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts. The report assesses ongoing efforts; articulates actions to improve the nation’s biodefense capabilities to prevent, deter, prepare for, detect, respond to, attribute, recover from, and mitigate biological incidents; and identifies near and long-term actions by current and future Congresses and Presidential Administrations.

Our Team
Study Panel