Larsen: We have fallen into failure of imagination

Colonel Randall J. Larsen, the founding director of the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center, spoke before a government subcommittee on Thursday on the subject of the importance of biopreparedness.

Larsen, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force, spoke before the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He pointed out that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently referred to the destruction of the Jersey Shore as unthinkable. Larsen said, however, that the DHS has provided 15 disaster scenarios to local, state and federal officials, one of which is a Category IV hurricane hitting a metropolitan area, Biosecurity Blog reports.

"Thankfully, Sandy was only a Category I storm, and evacuations significantly limited the number of deaths and serious injuries," Larsen said, according to Biosecurity Blog. "In other words, the effects of Sandy were far from 'unthinkable.' They were far less severe than our National Planning Scenario described."

Larsen said that his concern is that the government is falling into a mindset of a failure of imagination, a term coined by the 9/11 Commission. He said that despite a December 2008 report by the WMD Commission that said an act of bioterrorism was more likely than an act of nuclear terrorism, the government's preparedness to respond to a biological event is far less than for a major hurricane.

"In its recommendations, the WMD Center's report suggested the Congress and administration should focus on improving response capabilities to the type of attack described in both the 2008 WMD Commission report and the National Planning Scenarios: aerosolized anthrax," Larsen said, according to Biosecurity Blog.

Larsen suggested that the committee and other committees in Congress use the metrics and questions provided by the 2008 report in 2013 to ascertain whether or not the nation is making progress in improving biopreparedness and response capabilities. He said that the WMD Center supports the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act and eight other recommendations by the Aspen Institute WMD Working Group, Biosecurity Blog reports.