Commission gives U.S. a failing grade for biopreparedness

A report card released today by the bipartisan Commisson on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has turned a critical eye to the preparedness by the United States for a bioattack.

The WMD commission, which is chaired by former Senator Bob Graham and vice chaired by former Senator Jim Talent, gave a failing grade to the United States for its ability to rapidly and effectively respond to bioterrorism.

“Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, one year after our original report, and one month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, the United States is failing to address several urgent threats, especially bioterrorism,” said Senator Graham. “Each of the last three Administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat. But we no longer have the luxury of a slow learning curve, when we know al Qaeda is interested in bioweapons.”

The commission previously released its World at Risk report, that included a threat assessment noting that a weapon of mass destruction - most likely a biological weapon - will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.

That report issued a series of recommendations and specific actions that Congress and the Obama Administration should take in the face of WMD risk. Today's report card evaluates the steps that have been taken to implement these recommendations and to protect the United States.

The commission did give the an "A" grade for some biological risks, including for conducting a comprehensive review of the domestic program to secure dangerous pathogens and for developing a national strategy for advancing bioforensic capabilities.

A "B+" was issued for proposing a new action plan for achieving universal adherence to the Biological Weapons Convention and a "C" was given for strengthening domestic and global disease surveillance networks.

The commission gave the United States a "D+" for tightening government oversight of high-containment labs.

The "F" on the commission's report was given for the lack of enhancement given to the nation's capabilities for rapid response to prevent biological attacks from inflicting mass casualties.