Senator grills officials over funding priorities against biological, other threats

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) questioned representatives of the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services Wednesday at a hearing on public health threats about  bio-preparedness funding priorities.

Rear Adm. Nichole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response for the Department of Health and Human Services, fielded the funding questions. The Department of Homeland Security has identified 21 nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological agents as threat priorities, but McCaskill said 44 percent of contracts in this area are related to anthrax, which she found troubling.

"The 2013 (BioShield) contracts still indicate a huge proclivity toward anthrax, and anthrax domination in terms of this. The frustrating thing from here is that this program was supposed to be identifying things like Ebola so that we’re not rushing to fund after a crisis, but rather prepared when the crisis occurs. And it looks like there was a rush to spend before the funds expired, but not to truly identify additional threats that developed, and the severity of threats that have not been addressed. So I’m going to continue to follow up on this," McCaskill said.

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United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

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