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PANEL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DR. ASHA GEORGE SAYS U.S. NOT PREPARED FOR BIOLOGICAL INCIDENTS IN TESTIMONY BEFORE NATIONAL SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE
Congress Continues to Evaluate Readiness of U.S. Government to Respond to Biological Incidents
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 26, 2019) – Dr. Asha George, Executive Director of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, served as an expert witness this afternoon before the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security. Chaired by Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA), the Subcommittee is evaluating the readiness of the U.S. government and healthcare system, including hospital and emergency professionals, to respond to naturally occurring pandemics and biological attacks that could be perpetrated by state and non-state actors. The Subcommittee also is investigating the growing threat of antimicrobial-resistance, as well as the implications of this challenge for U.S. national security.
“Our Panel has assessed and continues to assess the state of our country’s biodefense. We scrutinize the status of prevention, deterrence, preparedness, detection, response, attribution, recovery, and mitigation – the spectrum of activities necessary for biodefense,” said Dr. George. “As expected, we found both strengths and weaknesses, including serious gaps that four years after the release of our Panel’s Blueprint for Biodefense in 2015 continue to make the nation vulnerable. In short, the nation is not prepared for biological outbreaks, bioterrorist attacks, biological warfare, or accidental releases with catastrophic consequences.”
Today’s hearing comes on the heels of President Trump signing the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act. The Act reauthorizes existing statute governing Department of Health and Human Services responsibilities. Additions made by this Act – some of which were recommended by the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense – address biodetection, hospital preparedness, medical countermeasures and response. Congress addressed 15 of the Panel’s recommendations in the legislation.
Also serving as witnesses at today’s hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building were Dr. Helen Boucher, Director, Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance, Tufts Medical Center; Chris Currie, Director, Emergency Management, Disaster Recovery & DHS Management Issues, on behalf of Homeland Security and Justice Team, U.S. GAO; and Dr. Cham Dallas, University Professor and Director, Institute for Disaster Management, University of Michigan.
About the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense
The Blue Ribbon Study Panel 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 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 Panel publications have addressed critical needs for agrosecurity, biodefense budgeting, and State, Local, Tribal and Territorial support. In September 2018, the White House released the National Biodefense Strategy, a top recommendation from the Blueprint. The Panel continues to assess biodefense challenges and to urge reform. Former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor Tom Ridge co-chair the Panel, 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 is the Panel’s fiscal sponsor.