Commission report a step in the right direction, but international preparedness shouldn't be ignored, expert says

"The notion that we can insulate ourselves in any meaningful sense from a pandemic disease is naive and I would have preferred more discussion on international preparedness," Barry Kellman, president of the International Security & Biopolicy Institute said about the newly released Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

"I think the report was a little harsh on what the recent administrations have accomplished. It's them of the importance of bioterrorism at that level is extremely useful," Kellman said. "More than that, it draws attention to the challenges of preparedness, which is good, but it focused almost exclusively on domestic preparedness. It's not that domestic isn't important, it's just that when we talk about bioterrorism, it's inherently international as a challenge."

Kellman noted that to be domestically prepared for a biological attack, there must also be an international preparedness.

"We need a global biological terrorism summit," Kellman said. "In the same sense that we cooperate with allies on nuclear terrorism, we should have a summit for bio issues."

Kellman called President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address, which the White House has said will focus on biological terrorism, a potentially more important moment in the field of biopreparedness than the WMD commission's report.

"I think the president's statement is what's going to convince people that this is something we need to deal with promptly," Kellman said. "Congress hasn't held a hearing on bioterrorism for two years, so that tells you that other rhetoric, they're not really paying attention. There's not a whole lot of movement.

"Presidential action on this issue is going to be extremely important. We have not had the president come out strongly on issues of bioterrorism since the 2002 State of the Union address following the anthrax attacks.

"By itself, the commission report is not going to move the issue, but the president's actions will be more effective."

Kellman said that while it is good to see action in the field of biopreparedness, it is only rhetoric at the moment, though within the next few weeks, based on Congress' attitude, that could shift.

"In a relatively short time, we'll know where things are going with bioterrorism preparedness. We'll know much better where we stand. This is about as much momentum as we've seen since the anthrax attacks," Kellman said.