The committee's chairman, Ron Johnson (R-WI), delivered the opening statement and listed specific biological agents considered to be threats to national security, including anthrax, tularemia and plague.
A major focus of the committee was a report from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Biodefense, co-chaired by former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, both of whom testified during the hearing. Their report contains approximately 100 suggestions and other items, including measures that would enhance biodefense accountability and responsibility. The report also details pieces of legislation, treaties and federal appointees that have scope and responsibility associated with biodefense in some capacity.
“The bottom line of this report is we’re better defended than we were in 2001 after the anthrax attacks, but really, the state of our biodefense is inadequate,” Lieberman said. “We’re unprepared for the very real biological threats we face, both from terrorists and from naturally emerging contagious diseases.”
Lieberman and Ridge also called for empowering the vice president with authority over U.S. biodefense. Currently, no office or position can be held accountable for such defense functions.