The risk of biological attacks on the U.S. is an uncertain, imminent reality, Robert Kadlec, the former special assistant and senior director for biodefense policy for President George W. Bush, said on Tuesday.
Kadlec made the remarks on Tuesday during a hearing entitled "Bioterrorism: Assessing the Threat," held by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications. The hearing was meant to allow experts in the biodefense field to assess the current bioterrorism threat.
Kadlec said the U.S. is vulnerable to such attacks and any investments into biodefense serve as a modest insurance policy against a threat that could cause severe damage to the U.S.
"Our ability to predict or know when this threat will manifest itself is severely limited by the capabilities of our intelligence services and the wide array of potential perpetrators who could conduct such attacks," Kadlec said. "Biological weapons could inflict grievous harm on America, equal to and potentially greater than nuclear weapons."
Kadlec said the U.S. requires a robust defense against bioterrorism, including a rapid, credible means to detect and mitigate biological attacks and an equally reliable means for attributing and holding bioterror perpetrators accountable.
During his testimony, Kadlec highlighted the importance of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasure Center, a facility managed by the Department of Homeland Security. He said that two component entities of the facility, the National Bioforensic Analysis Center and the National Biological Threat Characterization Center are particularly important in helping to learn more about biological attacks. Kadlec said that understanding more about biological attacks will help advance the understanding of what constitutes a biological threat.
"Relying entirely on intelligence assessments fails to understand the complex threat our intelligence community confronts," Kadlec said. "Understanding and preparing for the future biological threat will take more than intelligence."