GAO calls for non-federal biosurveillance cooperation

A recent study by the Government Accountability Office showed that because most U.S. biosurveillance capabilities are owned by nonfederal entities, an effective national strategy should consider leveraging non-federal efforts.
The October report presented to multiple congressional committees was undertaken due to the current risk the nation is at for a catastrophic biological event. In June 2010, the GAO recommended that the National Security Staff lead the development of a strategy for national biosurveillance, which is now under development. The report focused on nonfederal jurisdictions.
The report found that common issues to the development of maintaining biosurveillance capabilities at the city and state level include state policies that restrict hiring, training and travel due to budget constraints; ensuring adequate workforce, systems and training; and the lack of strategic leadership and planning to support long term investment in biosurveillance and effective partnerships.
"A national biosurveillance strategy that considers planning and leadership challenges at all levels of the biosurveillance enterprise may help partners across the enterprise find shared solutions for an effective national biosurveillance capability," the report said.
According to the report, the federal government devotes some resources to controlling diseases in humans and animals in tribal or insular areas, but there are no specific efforts to ensure those areas can contribute to a national biosurveillance capability. In addition, the government has not conducted a comprehensive assessment of state and local jurisdictions' ability to contribute to the capability of national biosurveillance.
"Until it conducts such an assessment, the federal government will lack key information to support a national biosurveillance capability," the report said. "A national strategy like the one we previously recommended—one capable of guiding federal agencies and its key stakeholders to systematically identify gaps, resources to address those gaps, and investment priorities—would benefit from an assessment of jurisdictions’ baseline capabilities and critical gaps across the entire biosurveillance enterprise."
The GAO provided a draft of the report to the National Security Staff. The staff acknowledged the accuracy of the report, but did not comment on the recommendation.