DOD supports U.S., global biosurveillance efforts

The U.S. Department of Defense says it is working with cities and countries around the globe to enhance their capacity to conduct biosurveillance.

The DOD says that its strategy is new, but has its origins in a range of policy documents that date from the 2007 Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21, which defines biosurveillance and discusses the need for the development of a U.S. national biosurveillance capability.

The 2009 National Strategy for Countering Biological Attacks, which seeks to protect against the misuse of the life sciences to support bioweapons agent proliferation, and the 2010 National Security Strategy, which notes the ability of emerging infectious diseases to threaten United States, further developed the DOD's ideas about its role in biosurveillance.

"DOD's involvement in biosurveillance goes back probably before DOD to the Revolutionary War," Andrew C. Weber, the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said. "We didn't call it biosurveillance then, but monitoring and understanding infectious disease has always been our priority, because for much of our history, we've been a global force."

Weber said the DOD has been working to improve international cooperation in biosurveillance activities. He also said he is concerned about uncooperative states.

"While we worry a lot about non-state actors launching a bioterrorist attack, we also have to worry about rogue states like [North] Korea, Iran and Syria that have biological/chemical weapons programs," Weber said.

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