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COMMISSION APPLAUDS PASSAGE OF BIODEFENSE REFORMS
IN FISCAL YEAR 2023 APPROPRIATIONS LEGISLATION
New Authorities Enacted as 118th Congress Prepares to Renew Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 11, 2023) – The Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, former Governor Tom Ridge and former Senator Joe Lieberman, praised Congress and President Biden for enacting and funding programs that will strengthen our defense against a future pandemic. Legislation signed into law at the end of the 117th Congress authorizes and strengthens biodefense activities at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“I am heartened to see our lawmakers take up the challenge of addressing the difficult lessons learned from our collective experience with COVID-19 over the last three years,” said Senator Lieberman. “There is still much more that we could learn from this pandemic – possibly through the creation of a 9/11-style Commission – but we cannot wait to act until another pandemic happens. The new Congress has an opportunity to continue the momentum of this legislative progress, and further address national biodefense when the Hill reauthorizes the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act later this year.”
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (Public Law 117-328) contains portions of the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (S.3799, 117th Congress), also known as the PREVENT Pandemics Act. The Act addresses biodefense policy, notably with the creation of an Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy in the White House, which will assist in coordinating federal biodefense policy and identifying preparedness and response capability gaps. Recommendation 1 from the Commission’s National Blueprint for Biodefense called for White House leadership of national biodefense and Recommendation 3 in the same report called for the collation of biodefense policy in support of the National Biodefense Strategy.
“This bipartisan agreement adds critical authorities and requirements to federal biodefense programs,” said Governor Ridge. “The Commission is pleased to see that this Act addresses eight recommendations from our National Blueprint for Biodefense and additional recommendations from other Commission reports, including The Apollo Program for Biodefense and The Athena Agenda.”
The new law also prioritizes technological advances at HHS, including biological surveillance, data modernization and integration, medical countermeasure research and development, and laboratory biosafety. The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense issued recommendations to elevate these technology areas in the Commission’s reports The Apollo Program for Biodefense – Winning the Race Against Biological Threats and The Athena Agenda: Advancing the Apollo Program for Biodefense. The Act also contains substantial funding increases for other biodefense-related programs in other federal departments and agencies. The Commission thanks Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), the outgoing Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, for their leadership in introducing the PREVENT Pandemics Act and for championing its inclusion in the final spending package.
About the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense
The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense was established in 2014 to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the state of U.S. biodefense efforts, and to issue recommendations to foster change. The Commission’s 2015 report, A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts, identified capability gaps and recommended changes to U.S. policy and law to strengthen national biodefense while optimizing resource investments. In its 2021 report, Biodefense in Crisis: Immediate Action Needed to Address National Vulnerabilities, the Commission described the extent to which the federal government has implemented the Commission’s Blueprint for Biodefense. Other Commission publications have addressed critical needs for an Apollo Program for Biodefense, national biodetection, agrodefense, biodefense budgeting, diagnostics, biodefense of critical infrastructure, contributions by land-grant universities to biodefense, and State, Local, Tribal and Territorial response capabilities. In September 2018 and in October 2022, the White House released the National Biodefense Strategy, a top recommendation from the Blueprint, and in September 2021 released the American Pandemic Preparedness Plan, taking up recommendations from the Commission’s Apollo Program and Athena Agenda reports. The Commission continues to address biodefense challenges and to urge reform. Former Senator Joe Lieberman and Governor Tom Ridge co-chair the Commission. Hudson Institute is the Commission’s fiscal sponsor.