Skip to comments.U.S. NOT READY FOR BIOTERRORISM
Posted on 10/06/2001 11:52:23 AM PDT by forest
A recent study by the General Accounting Office (GOA) warns that federal, state and local health departments all appear equally unprepared to deal with a biological assault. Many of the federal bioterrorism programs are still in their infancy, with little more than start-up money, says GOA.
For instance, as of January 2001, not one of the National Guard's civil support teams designed to deploy within four hours of an attack, "had received necessary certification, and none were in use." The Pentagon received $93 million for the teams, but none are ready to field.
Below is an excerpt from the GAO's Report to Congressional Committees: "BIOTERRORISM, Federal Research and Preparedness Activities" GAO-01-915, dated September 28, 2001.(1)
More specifically, the excerpt below is from the "Fragmented Within the Federal Government" section starting at document page 16 (pdf page 22).
Overall coordination of federal programs to combat terrorism, including bioterrorism, is fragmented within the federal government. For example, several agencies have coordination functions, including DOJ, FBI, FEMA, and the Office of Management and Budget. Officials from a number of the agencies that combat terrorism told us that the coordination roles of these various agencies are not always clear and sometimes overlap, leading to a fragmented approach. The Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (also known as the Gilmore Panel) also concluded that the current coordination structure does not provide for the requisite authority or accountability to make policy changes and to impose the discipline necessary among the numerous federal agencies involved.
The multiplicity of federal assistance programs requires focus and attention to minimize redundancy of effort. Table 3 describes some of the federal programs providing assistance to state and local governments for emergency planning that would be relevant to responding to a bioterrorist attack. While the programs vary somewhat in their target audiences, the potential redundancy of these federal efforts highlights the need for scrutiny. In a recent report, we recommended that the President, working closely with Congress, consolidate some of the activities of the DOJ's OJP under FEMA.
Fragmentation is also evident in the different threat lists of biological agents developed by federal departments and agencies. Several different agencies have or are in the process of developing biological agent threat lists, which differ based on the agencies' focus. For example, CDC collaborated with law enforcement, intelligence, and defense agencies to develop a critical agent list that focuses on the biological agents that would have the greatest impact on public health. The FBI, the National Institute of Justice, and the Technical Support Working Group are completing a report that lists biological agents that may be more likely to be used by a terrorist group working in the United States that is not foreign sponsored. In addition, an official at USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service told us that it uses two lists of agents of concern for a potential bioterrorist attack developed through an international process (although only some of these agents are capable of making both animals and humans sick).
According to agency officials, separate threat lists are appropriate because of the different focuses of these agencies. In prior reports, we have recommended that the federal government conduct multidisciplinary and analytically sound threat and risk assessments to define and prioritize requirements and properly focus programs and investments in combating terrorism.
Fragmentation has also hindered unity of effort. Officials at USDA, FDA, and DOT told us that their departments and agencies have often been overlooked in bioterrorism-related planning and policy. USDA officials told us that as federal policy and coordination were developed in Presidential Decision Directive 62, the department was not included even though it would have key responsibilities if terrorists targeted the food supply. FDA officials told us that FDA was involved in some issues with the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, but was not involved in the selection of all items procured for the stockpile. DOT officials noted that even though its programs cross many areas and the nation's transportation centers for a significant percentage of potential terrorist targets, the department was not part of the founding group of agencies that worked on bioterrorism issues and has not been included in bioterrorism response plans. DOT officials also told us that the department is supposed to deliver supplies for FEMA under the Federal Response Plan, but it was not brought in early enough to understand the extent of its responsibilities in the transportation process. It did not learn these details until its participation in TOPOFF 2000.
Overall coordination of federal programs to combat terrorism, including bioterrorism, is fragmented within the federal government...The Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (also known as the Gilmore Panel) also concluded that the current coordination structure does not provide for the requisite authority or accountability to make policy changes and to impose the discipline necessary among the numerous federal agencies involved.
Fragmentation has also hindered unity of effort. Officials at USDA, FDA, and DOT told us that their departments and agencies have often been overlooked in bioterrorism-related planning and policy.
You mean there's no reserve supply of Smallpox vaccine? No reserves of the antibiotic supplies that can stave off Anthrax infection, if caught early? (wide-eyed surprise.... fainting in the aisles....)
NO???........ Well, what the hell HAVE they been doing, partying?