Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense holds first meeting

The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, led by former Gov. Tom Ridge and former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, met Thursday in Washington, D.C.,  to review the country's current level of defense against biological and chemical attacks.

“I don’t want to wait for a biological 9/11 for the Congress and all levels of government to act," Ridge said. "We’ve invited these experts here today to help us develop concrete recommendations on which policymakers can act right now to optimize our preparedness.”

As part of the first meeting, the panel heard from former federal officials considered experts in this area, who offered perspectives on existing biological and chemical threats, as well as biodefense areas for improvement. Among the speakers were former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent and North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr.

"We’re really kicking this off today to look at the question of threat awareness in biodefense," Lieberman said. "We want to get at the problem, ‘Can the federal government act before a crisis, or does it have to wait until after a crisis?'"

The co-panelists included former Homeland Security Adviser Kenneth Wainstein, former Rep. Jim Greenwood, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle.

Three more meetings will take place in Washington, D.C., while subsequent meetings will occur in regions around the country. The panel will then produce a report, issued in the spring of 2015, detailing recommendations for changes to current U.S. laws and policies. The panel is sponsored by the Hudson Institute and the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies, and also receives financial support from other institutions.