House Energy and Commerce Committee requests study of DHS's BioWatch

Bipartisan leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested the Government Accountability Office conduct an evaluation of the Department of Homeland Security's BioWatch program in observance of the Generation-3 program.

The BioWatch program was created in 2003 to identify potential biological attacks, and has dealt with false alarms and other problems since its inception. This has raised questions from local and state officials in areas where BioWatch systems exist, as it has cost taxpayers $1 billion to date.

The leaders raised three questions in regard to the efficacy of BioWatch: how well the system's Gen-1/2 program can detect a biological attack, how well the technology meets the DHS's requirements for phase 2 testing and how that is being incorporated into Gen-3 and how many benefits Gen-3 will provide above the existing system.

"We believe that the Congress and the administration would benefit from a comprehensive technical evaluation by the GAO of currently deployed systems designed to detect airborne, biological threats in the environment, and those planned or under development, by the Department of Homeland Security," the bipartisan leaders said. "Since the DHS Office of Health Affairs is in the process of determining whether Gen-3 BioWatch should be funded for a second phase of more advanced testing, and since such testing assumes a high degree of maturity of the technology, concerns have been raised regarding the extent to which its performance characteristics actually meet operational requirements."