Expert calls for consolidation of U.S. biodefense system

While many members of Congress are battling over what to cut out of the federal budget, the Government Accountability Office released a report Tuesday that showed the overlap and waste involved throughout the government.  

One of the major areas mentioned in the report was the duplication found in the government’s biodefense efforts. According to a summary of the report, the biodefense effort is so divided between departments that billions of unaccounted for dollars are for spent on it annually. The commission, as a result, gave the prevention measures a failing grade, Fox News reports.

"There are now more than two dozen presidentially appointed individuals with some responsibility for biodefense,” the report says, according to Fox News. “In addition, numerous federal agencies, encompassing much of the federal government, have some mission responsibilities for supporting biodefense activities. However, there is no individual or entity with responsibility, authority, and accountability for overseeing the entire biodefense enterprise. There is no national plan to coordinate federal, state, and local efforts following a bioterror attack, and the United States lacks the technical and operational capabilities required for an adequate response.”

Having no plan or tracking system in place for biodefense funds has led to a complete inability to determine how much money is spent on this key defense area.

"Neither the Office of Management and Budget nor the federal agencies account for biodefense spending across the entire federal government,” the report says, according to Fox News. “As a result, the federal government does not know how much is being spent on this critical national security priority."

Col. Randy Larsen gave an especially clear interpretation of the lack of coordination during an interview on Fox News’ “Happening Now.”

“If you eat a cheese pizza and it makes you sick, that's the responsibility of the secretary of health and human services,” Col. Larsen said. “But if you ate a sausage and pepperoni pizza that makes you sick, that's the secretary of agriculture, when the egg is in the shell, that's the secretary of the department of agriculture, once you break it open and put it in food, that's a different cabinet secretary.”

One of the potential solutions for the overlap and redundancy is the proposal to place one organization at the head of all biodefense.

“There’s no good mechanism to track how this money is being spent on biodefense…it’s hard to fix that system," Col. Larsen said. "But first, we need the proper organization."