Defense Department teams with cities and countries to improve biosurveillance

The Defense Department is working with cities around the United States and countries around the world to enhance capabilities needed to detect and track global disease outbreaks.

The first National Biosurveillance Strategy was released last month and involves the use of experts and technologies to systematically gather, analyze, and interpret data surrounding disease activity. The program will hopefully help reduce the threat to human and animal life through early warning and detection, Defense Professionals reports.

The strategy is new, though the idea of biosurveillance has been addressed before, including a 2007 directive that defined biosurveillance and discussed the need for a national capability.

Additionally, in 2009, the National Strategy for Countering Biological Attacks reports sought to protect against the misuse of life sciences to support biological weapons, proliferation and terrorism. The National Security Strategy of 2010, meanwhile, noted the ability of emerging infectious diseases to cross borders and threaten national security, Defense Professionals reports.

"DOD's involvement in biosurveillance goes back probably before DOD to the Revolutionary War," Andrew C. Weber, the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said, Defense Professionals reports. "We didn't call it biosurveillance then, but monitoring and understanding infectious disease has always been our priority, because for much of our history, we've been a global force."

The DOD is working to improve global biosurveillance cooperation in order to prepare for microbial storms unleashed by nature and by adversaries, according to Weber.

"While we worry a lot about non-state actors launching a bioterrorist attack," Weber said, Defense Professionals reports. "we also have to worry about rogue states like [North] Korea, Iran and Syria that have biological/chemical weapons programs."