BioWatch program behind schedule and over budget

A new federal report shows that an ambitious federal program aimed at protecting large cities from biological attacks is six years behind schedule and $3.7 billion over its projected cost.

As a result, some experts have warned that the Department of Homeland Security's BioWatch program may have been created prematurely as a response to the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Documents obtained by Government Accountability Office auditors show that research for the system did "not reflect a systematic analytic and decision-making process," the New York Post reports.

Analysts did not fully explore costs and didn't even know if the technology they were counting on was able to be developed, evidenced by the fact that the technology still does not exist.

Investigators expect at least $5.8 billion to be spent on the project, instead of the proposed $2.1 billion. Additionally, the technology was expected to be installed by 2016, but things now appear to be on track for a 2022 deadline, according to the New York Post.

The current system is made up of sensors placed around New York and other cities to collect air samples. The samples are collected manually and then tested for anthrax, smallpox and three other viruses or bacteria undisclosed by the government.

The problem with the existing system is that it takes a lot of manpower to process the samples and that the testing takes time, meaning by the time an agent is detected in the air, it could be too late.

The new system would have automatic tests done at sensor sites in a process that would only take a couple of hours.

The new system, though, is nowhere near being complete.

"We are now 11 years afterward, and we still do not have a coordinated plan," Dr. D.A. Henderson, who helped coordinate federal bioterror planning in the wake of the anthrax attacks, said, according to the New York Post.

The report says that Homeland Security awarded contracts without calculating the costs or planning on a way to test the system.

DHS officials did not argue with the reports findings.