U.S. needs to focus on large-scale threat, report says

According to the new report card from the WMD Terrorism Research Center, the nation is largely unprepared for a large-scale bioterrorism attack or deadly disease outbreak.

The report, which was released on Wednesday, gives the country mostly B's and C's for its ability to handle small-scale events, such as the anthrax letter attack of 2001, CNN reports. The report also gives a D across the board for the country's ability to develop and quickly approve medical countermeasures and failing grades for its ability to handle large-scale events.

"Today we face the very real possibility that outbreaks of disease - naturally occurring or man-made - can change the very nature of America," the report concludes, according to CNN.

The bipartisan center is headed by former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and is an offshoot of the congressionally chartered WMD Commission. The authors of the report said that they recognize that budget constraints are preventing the government from addressing all current bioterror preparedness shortcomings. The report recommends focusing on potential large-scale outbreaks, which they say would automatically improve preparedness for smaller outbreaks.

"If you focused just on the 'F' grades, you can pour a lot of money down that hole," Randy Larsen, a representative for the center, said, according to CNN. "If we work to make D's into C's, that is the best strategy for the nation."

One major key to improving the nation's preparedness, according to the report, is leadership.

"We have recommended that there should be someone in the federal government who has (bioterrorism preparedness) as their sole responsibility," Graham said, according to CNN. "That someone should be an individual who has the capability to direct and influence actions by the multiplicity of agencies that are involved and provide leadership to non-federal entities."

Graham suggested that the office of the vice president would be a suitable spot for the job. Talent said that the government should not ignore the threat until it is too late and then throw large amounts of money at the problem. It should instead focus on the shortcomings identified in the report.