Kadlec: Project BioShield funding must remain a priority

Congress should continue to fund Project BioShield, a project that led to medical countermeasures against anthrax, smallpox and other threats, according to a former U.S. senior director for biodefense policy.

Robert Kadlec, a consultant with RPK Consulting, LLC, who advised the George W. Bush administration on biodefense, published an editorial on Wednesday defending the ultimate funding level of Project BioShield. While the recent signing of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act Reauthorization authorizes an added $2.8 billion for the project in the next five years, Congress could still decide to reduce the project's ultimate funding through the annual appropriations process, the Hill reports.

"In light of the nation's difficult fiscal challenges, it would be easy to cut or eliminate federally funded government programs that have failed or are marginally working," Kadlec said, according to the Hill. "But surprisingly, Project BioShield is not one them. It is a program that has proved to be a success."

After the events of 9/11, Congress enacted Project BioShield to expand the U.S. stockpile of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks. In 2004, Congress appropriated $5.6 billion over 10 years for countermeasure procurement.

Kadlec said Project BioShield was a success, yielding 50 million doses of vaccines and drugs against multiple CBRN threats and incentivizing more than 80 companies to develop countermeasures by providing a guaranteed market for their products. In addition to added safety, the emerging biotechnology sector has spawned new jobs and innovations.

Kadlec said that in light of current events such as the presence of chemical and biological weapons in war-torn Syria, it would be a poor decision to cut the budget for the successful project, the Hill reports.

"In light of growing global instability and the diffusion of capabilities that offers states, disaffected groups and individuals with the means to conduct CBRN attacks, the national security partnership created by Project BioShield is a strategic hedge against an uncertain future," Kadlec said, according to the Hill. "The $2.8 billion that Congress authorized over five years for Project BioShield is an indispensable insurance policy against potential CBRN attacks."