GAO calls for centralized biodefense activities

In a recent series of reports on duplication in the federal government, the General Accounting Office recommended that the Homeland Security Council create a central point of focus for the coordination of all federal biodefense activities.

In addition, the GAO believes the national biodefense effort would be bolstered by a series of strategic oversight mechanisms. To the end of creating effective and accountable results, they are recommending the creation of a national coordinator and a national strategy, according to CIDRAP News.

The GAO’s recommendation list echoes other expert groups that have pointed out the responsibilities for U.S. biodefense are shared between more than two dozen presidential appointees and numerous agencies. In many cases those responsibilities overlap to a large extent.

The GAO broke down the responsibilities of multiple agencies into four major areas - threat awareness, prevention and protection, surveillance and detection, and response and recovery, CIDRAP News reports. In past reports, the GAO has mentioned fragmentation in the biosurveillance area.

The report was the first in an expected annual series of reports to Congress on the duplication of activities and goals of government agencies. The GAO also cited problems in food safety and communications.

The report is intended to be used as a tool to help Congress reduce the budget deficit by finding inefficiencies. The GAO said the 345 page report is not exhaustive, CIDRAP News reports.