Talent and Graham react to potential biodefense spending cut

Former senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on July 12 expressing their concerns over plans to cut biodefense spending by $2 billion.

The former senators, who served as chair and co-chair of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, are particularly worried about cuts to the BioShield Reserve Fund, which holds U.S. money to pay for the development and distribution of medical countermeasures in the case of an emergency.

“It was designed to be an iron-clad pledge by the US government to the private sector — if you take the financial risks to research and develop these medical countermeasures, we guarantee the money will be available to purchase them,” the former senators wrote.

The pair applauded Obama’s “transformative enterprise strategy,” which contains initiatives for producing drugs and vaccines, but they believe it cannot succeed without BioShield.

“Mr. President, this issue is so important that we feel we must repeat our past warnings in the strongest terms: Raiding the BioShield SRF for non-biodefense programs will drive a stake through the heart of America’s fledgling biodefense efforts,” they wrote.

They concluded by urging Obama to take action.

The proposal to cut funds was written when Wisconsin democrat David Obey, the Appropriations Committee Chairman, sought to add $10 billion dollars to a bill in an effort to avoid teacher layoffs and, according to budget rules, had to make significant cuts. The proposal passed the House and is now awaiting Senate approval.