Commission says U.S. failing to address urgent biosecurity issues

The United States is failing to address its most urgent threat — biological proliferation and terrorism — concluded a report issued Oct. 21 by the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

The commission also felt the Obama administration has given appropriate high-level attention to the nuclear threat but noted the challenges loom large.

The commission cited a range of missteps on biosecurity that lead to its conclusion: No senior-level advocate for biosecurity in the administration; attempted funding “raids” on two critical biopreparedness programs; and lack of appropriate disease surveillance.

“The biological threat is often misunderstood,” said former Senator Jim Talent, the commission’s vice chairman. “But the fact is, it is only getting easier and cheaper to develop and use biological weapons — and our best response is to mitigate the effects through faster, safer vaccines and therapeutics. It’s essential that the U.S. government move more aggressively on this front.”

Specific concerns raised in the report, relating to U.S. biosecurity, include: developing a common understanding of the biothreat. The report said there is a lack of common understanding across the administration and congress about the threat of biological terrorism.

The commission also said the nation needs to improve domestic and international disease surveillance in order to quickly recognize a disease emergency, whether natural or manmade.