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COMMISSION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DR. ASHA M. GEORGE TO TESTIFY BEFORE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE EXAMINING INVESTIGATION OF BIOLOGICAL EVENTS
House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to Hold Public Hearing on February 1
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 31, 2023) – Dr. Asha M. George, Executive Director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, will testify as an expert witness before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations tomorrow, February 1, at 2:00 p.m. The hearing, titled Challenges and Opportunities to Investigating the Origins of Pandemics and Other Biological Events will be held in Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building and will be webcast. The purpose of the hearing is to examine current national capabilities to investigate origins of biological threats, and how to improve those capabilities.
“COVID-19 proved that a single, difficult-to-control disease can still produce devastating consequences for the world,” Dr. George will testify at the hearing. “As we identify lessons from this event to carry forward, the government must not only improve the ability to respond to future biological events, but also develop the means to better attribute origin of, and responsibility for, those events.”
In 2015, the Commission released its foundational report, A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts, containing 33 recommendations and 87 associated action items for addressing what the Commission saw as serious gaps in national biodefense. One of those recommendations addressed investigations of origins of biological events, calling for the establishment of a national biological attribution decision-making apparatus.
“We determined at the time that the Nation had not yet fully established attribution capability and that there was no formal federal biological attribution apparatus. That recommendation remains as relevant today in 2023 as it did in 2015,” Dr. George will testify. “The Commission continues to believe the federal government must do more to attribute biological events and coordinate their efforts. We recommend that Congress require the establishment of a federal interagency working group to develop a national biological attribution apparatus, with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and requirements, as well as milestones for adjudicating attribution information and informing decisions following any biological event with national security implications.”
Dr. George’s testimony will also discuss steps the government can take to enhance laboratory biosecurity and technologies that can contribute to investigations into the origins of pandemics. In April 2022, the Commission released its report The Athena Agenda: Advancing the Apollo Program for Biodefense. The report examines biodefense technologies requiring additional federal investments to better prepare the nation for future pandemics, including those that could be used to investigate biological events.
Editor’s Note: Journalists interested in interviews with Dr. George should contact Steve Aaron by emailing steve@SRACommunications.com.
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. Subsequent Commission publications have addressed critical needs for an Apollo Program for Biodefense, biological risk reduction, biodetection, agrodefense and the role of the land-grant universities, budget reform, diagnostics, critical infrastructure, and State, Local, Tribal and Territorial response capabilities. In September 2018 and in October 2022, the White House released the National Biodefense Strategy, and in January 2023, OMB released a biodefense budget crosscut, top recommendations from the Blueprint. In September 2021, the White House 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.