Investigation underway on bio-terrorism research spending

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) questioned government officials regarding funding allocation of government contracts to research and develop bio-terrorism tools at a recent hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Tara O'Toole and U.S. Government Accountability Office Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues David C. Maurer testified as witnesses at the committee hearing.

"I'm trying to make the point that we've spent billions on a tool to tell us if we're having a bio-attack and now there seems to be a consensus that we've wasted it," McCaskill, who also serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight, said. "It's imperative that you have more information on questionable expenditures."

Another topic under investigation is Consultant Richard Danzig's efforts to declare drug-resistant anthrax a chemical threat to the U.S. while he also served on the board for the company that manufactured the only available antitoxin. O'Toole initially claimed she had no knowledge of the efforts.

"You're telling me that in your capacity of responsibility and leadership at the Department of Homeland Security that you have no idea that there has been a serious allegation of a conflict of interest," McCaskill asked.

O'Toole eventually said she vaguely remembers reading such a claim.

McCaskill also called for an investigation of the contracts awarded to Danzig for biodefense-related consulting. Danzig recommended the government invest in the antitoxin for drug-resistant anthrax called raxibacumab, yet did not inform the government that he was on the Board of the drug's manufacturer and would profit from the contracts.