HHS behind on countermeasure priorities, GAO says

According to a Government Accountability Office report, the Department of Health and Human Services has made headway on goals outlined in an August 2010 review but has yet to update formal plans or budget priorities.
The GAO's review, which was detailed in a 54 page report, was requested by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The committee questioned how extensively HHS uses risk assessment to guide its development of countermeasures and its acquisition priorities, CIDRAP News reports.
While HHS spelled out its countermeasure development and acquisition priorities in a 2007 plan, along with funding plans through 2013, the agency has not met its goal of updating the plan biannually to reflect changes in priorities. A lack of current information can be an issue for companies that need to make decisions on investments in countermeasure development.
The request for the report comes as Congress considers reauthorization of the Project Bioshield Act of 2004, which was set up to develop countermeasures against biological weapons and other threats. The act is set to expire in 2012.
HHS said its monitoring strategy for the 2010 plan includes quarterly planning, document updates, and quarterly and yearly progress reviews. The GAO said that the strategy isn't consistent with federal control standards or program management best practices, CIDRAP News reports. The GAO recommended that HHS update its acquisition and development plan, provide budget priorities for the acquisitions and develop a strategy for monitoring its initiatives.
HHS responded by saying that it agreed with the first two recommendations but that it already had a monitoring strategy in place. The GAO said that HHS still requires a strong monitoring system containing complete information on all of the initiatives, including milestones and time frames.