CDC labs cited for security and training shortcomings

Laboratories at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were cited repeatedly in private government audits for failing to properly secure bioterror agents, according to recently secured government watchdog reports.

Audits from 2008, 2009 and 2010 conducted by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found problems with CDC lab security and improper training for employees working with the most dangerous pathogens in the world. The inspector general's office released the reports in response to a Freedom of Information Act, USA Today reports.

"There appears to be longstanding and recurring problems at CDC's labs which underscore the need to increase oversight and to ensure that appropriate action is taken to correct these problems permanently," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, according to USA Today.

Issues cited in the reports include failing to ensure the physical security of bioterror or restrict access to approved individuals, failure to ensure that people working with and around potential bioterror agents received proper training, and not making sure that only approved individuals accepted packages containing potential bioterror agents arriving from other outside labs.

CDC officials said that the incidents did not put anybody in danger because the labs contain redundant layers of security and safety.

Joseph Henderson, the director of the CDC's Office of Safety, Security and Asset Management, said that issues are fixed immediately after they arise, USA Today reports.

"We always take it seriously," Henderson said, according to USA Today. "We strive for perfection."