Pascrell: Bioterror threat a life or death matter

The Obama administration's 2012 strategy to prevent bioterrorism is failing and strengthening security against bioterror is a matter of life or death, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said on Tuesday.

Pascrell made the remarks during a hearing called "Bioterrorism: Assessing the Threat" held by the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. The hearing focused on the current threat of bioterrorism and chemical weapons to the U.S. Attendees were unified in supporting efforts by the Obama administration to increase resources, training and countermeasure programs related to biosecurity.

Pascrell asked why the administration was not moving faster against the threat of bioterrorism.

"I don't sense the urgency about this (bioterror threat)," Pascrell said. "The administration is not doing enough. Their 2012 strategy is falling short. This is either a priority or it is not. (Bioterror is a) matter of life or death."

Pascrell said that he and Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) planned on Tuesday to introduce the WMD Prevention and Prep Act, a bill that calls on the federal government to prepare for all bioterror threats.

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), the chairwoman of the subcommittee, agreed that more needed to be done in the battle against bioterrorism. She said white powder scares near the Super Bowl venue last week serve as a reminder that a bioterror attack could have a major impact on the U.S.

Brooks said the U.S. was far from a passing grade when it came to biosecurity.

"(There are) no As on the biothreats report card," Brooks said. "A lot of Fs and Ds. (It's) clear that we are not yet prepared and have a long way to go."

Panelists for the event included Robert Kadlec, the former special assistant to the president for biodefense, Tom Inglesby, the CEO and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Health Security and Leonard Cole, the director of the Terror Medicine and Security department at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School's Department of Emergency Medicine.