Bucci: BioWatch needs improvement but is necessary for security

A senior research fellow for Homeland Security at the Heritage Foundation said on Friday that despite the criticisms levied against BioWatch, the early warning system is needed to protect against catastrophic dangers.

Steven P. Bucci said that despite the recent critical articles written against the biological pathogen warning system, the calls to shut BioWatch down are ill-advised, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"Yes, BioWatch is far from perfect," Bucci said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The program has problems and needs to improve. But flawed as it is, BioWatch does increase security. Much like Israel's 'Iron Dome' missile defense system, BioWatch isn't perfect. But it's a huge improvement over what we had before, which was nothing."

Critics of BioWatch point to the high costs and the frequent false positives with the system. Bucci said that the costs are worth the potential prevention of the deaths of thousands in case of an attack. He also said that the ability to detect and inform on organisms that are similar or identical to base pathogens being sought should be seen as an indication of success.

"For countering biological weapons, this is a very good thing," Bucci said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Slight variations of a pathogen should still trigger a response. Mutation and manipulation are very real aspects of biological weaponry. To leave the system with no flexibility here would severely limit its ability to protect. If made too rigid, bad guys could easily evade detection by slightly altering base pathogens."

Bucci admitted that BioWatch needs to reduce the number of false positives and recalibrate its goals to improve accuracy, but he recommended that the U.S. take advantage of the investment it has made into a necessary program.

"In this environment, we should utilize the investment already made, while understanding the limitations and seeking continual improvement," Bucci said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Every day BioWatch is used, it gets better. Just because a system is not perfect does not mean it is not valuable, or that it does not protect American lives. BioWatch should be kept in place, with a commitment to ever-better performance."