FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Steve Aaron
COMMISSION TO CONGRESS: “OUR COUNTRY NEEDS ANSWERS. WE CAN HELP.”
In letter to Congressional leaders, Commission offers support to Congress to shorten time
needed to be ready for impending biological threats
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 8, 2020) – In a letter sent earlier today to the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate, the six members of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense pledged their support to Congress as the legislative branch considers different mechanisms for reviewing and improving our country’s biodefense in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This will not be the last biological crisis this Nation faces,” the Commissioners wrote. “In addition to the potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases this fall, other naturally occurring diseases continue to mutate and work their way around the world, and both state- and non-state actors continue to invest in biological weapons programs that may well come to fruition and threaten us. It is not too early to start examining and learning from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, and determining what the public and private sectors need to do next, even as we continue to respond to the current crisis.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress established the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which produced a superb final report in July 2004, almost three years after the attacks. According to experts, another biological event – whether naturally occurring or human generated – is likely to strike our country and the world in the near future. Our country needs answers in months. We cannot, therefore, wait three years before taking action. When it comes to infectious disease, time is not on our side.”
Commission Co-Chairs Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge, along with Commissioners Tom Daschle, Jim Greenwood, Ken Wainstein, and Lisa Monaco, signed the letter (attached). Established in 2014, the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense continually assesses and recommends changes to U.S. policy and law to strengthen the Nation’s ability to defend against naturally occurring infectious diseases and biological attacks.
“Our bipartisan group has spent the past six years examining ways to strengthen our defense against biological threats, and we have well-developed findings and recommendations that are directly applicable to the COVID-19 crisis,” the letter continues. “As Congress considers different mechanisms for reviewing and improving our Nation’s biodefense, we wish to make ourselves and our bipartisan work available to facilitate and expedite that effort. Each of us on the Commission and our staff would be honored to make such a contribution. We are confident that our involvement would significantly shorten the timeline by which our Nation develops the comprehensive readiness and response capacity needed to address the modern-day threat of infectious disease. We offer our Commission’s support in any way you think we can help.”
The letter further notes that Congress, with bipartisan support, addressed a number of the Commission’s recommendations in statute, including, for example, mandating the formulation of a National Biodefense Strategy in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. Signed into law by President Obama, the Trump Administration developed and released the Strategy in September 2018. “We regret, however, that too few of our recommendations were implemented or funded, and as a result, America was no more prepared when the COVID-19 crisis hit this year than when we issued our baseline report in 2015.”
The full letter is available here: COVID-19 Letter to Congress from the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense
About the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense
The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, formerly known as the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, was established in 2014 to comprehensively assess the state of U.S. biodefense efforts, and to issue recommendations that foster change. The Panel’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 agrodefense, biodefense budgeting, and State, Local, Tribal and Territorial capabilities. In September 2018, the White House released the National Biodefense Strategy, a top recommendation from the Blueprint. The Commission continues to assess biodefense challenges and to urge reform. Former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor Tom Ridge co-chair the Commission, and are joined by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Representative Jim Greenwood, former Homeland Security Advisor Ken Wainstein, and former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco. Hudson Institute serves as the Commission’s fiscal sponsor.