Congress considers changing funding mechanism for CBRN countermeasure program

Congress may soon change the way it funds the federal program to develop, procure, and use medical countermeasures against CBRN terrorism agents.

The Project BioShield Act was passed by Congress in 2004 and, among other things, guaranteed a market for CBRN medical countermeasures. Approximately $3.3 billion has already been obligated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to combat anthrax, smallpox, botulism, radiation and nerve agents.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said the 113th Congress might consider making changes to both how Project BioShield receives funding and how it spends the money to optimally use its CBRN-related authority.

Congress rescinded or transferred more than a third of the approximately $5.5 billion originally advance appropriated for Project BioShield since its passage a decade ago. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 would provide $255 million for Project BioShield to use until the funds were actually expended.

The CRS report also said that Congress might consider changing the manner by which it funds Project BioShield to address countermeasure gaps and plan for long-term costs. Currently, the HHS secretary may obligate funds to purchase countermeasures that still require up to 10 years of development. The secretary may also temporarily allow the use of countermeasures that have not received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.