Senate Committee hears testimony on status of American biodefense.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) | Courtesy of the U.S. Senate
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) chaired a full committee hearing on biodefense on Wednesday.  Testifying were former Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, co-chairs of the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense. 

During the hearing the committee members and witnesses discussed biological defense, what the national capabilities against pathogens that are deemed to be a threat to public health and national security. These include anthrax, the plague, tularemia, the Ebola virus and others.

This hearing followed a report from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Biodefense that was also published on Wednesday.

“Whether the threat is an intentional weapon or an emerging infectious disease, our nation’s biodefense infrastructure needs to be effective from detection to attribution to recovery, Johnson said. “Though we arguably have the greatest health care system in the world, we do not want to be overly confident about our ability to respond to these biological challenges. We need an adequate strategy and leadership to see it implemented.”

In the report the Blue Ribbon Panel stated that there needs to be an increased level of collaborative efforts between the levels of government. They report that there is no centralized budget or leadership structure that is focused on biological defense.

In his opening, Johnson notes the U.S. response to health care workers that returned after having been infected in the West African Ebola outbreak. He states that federal agencies were ill-prepared to manage development of countermeasures and establishing guidelines on clinical and waste management guidelines.

Click here to watch the hearing and read witness testimony. 

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United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

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