Congressman: Intelligence gathering first step in stopping bioterror

Prophylactic measures to fight biothreats are important, Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said, but intelligence gathering is the most important method of stopping a bioterror event.

Rogers, a permanent select member of the Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, spoke last week at a NATO Parliamentary Assembly hosted by Emergent BioSolutions, Inc.

"Any defense vaccines that we have are second tier," Rogers said. "It's an important second tier and it needs to exist, but the first tier is intelligence.

"The best way that we can stop a bioterror attack is to know what the threat is. We don't have that knowledge without great intelligence.

"There are biothreats out there. Most of them we know about, some we do not. We know where some of them are in development, some we do not."

Rogers said that intelligence is needed to not only know where an attack will take place but by what means the attack will happen.

"We don't want to buy 5,00 vials of X if they're working on Y as a threat," Rogers said. That doesn't help anybody.

"This is equally as important as a missile defense conversation because it's easier to locate a missile and a missile system and a radiological element than it is a biosubstance that could kill equally, if not more, of our population.

"For sheer chaos and panic, imagine a bioagent going off anywhere in the world. It would shake the confidence of not only that population but of the world population."

Rogers said that intelligence will also aid in stopping threats by catching them in the developmental stages of planning rather than once the threat is made real.

"I can't stress that enough," Rogers said. "In the international community, we've improved our intelligence relationships, which lets us know what to order and what we need to prepare ourselves. That's hopefully how we know to intercept a problem before it becomes a real problem."

Rogers said that the United States must work to not only better prepare itself and broaden its intelligence interests but also to work with intentional partners in broadening their intelligence.

"It's going to take leadership in all of our elements of government to make it happen," Rogers said. "It's the reality of the world we live in today."