The United States is not prepared to deal with a biological weapon attack, according to a new bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense presented to Congress Wednesday.
The panel, led by former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and former Pennsylvania Governor and first director of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge (R), conducted meetings, interviews and extensive research to study and evaluate the nation’s state of defense against biological attacks. The panel also looked at the 2001 anthrax attacks as well as programs enacted in the name of biodefense under the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations.
“Simply put, the nation does not afford the biological threat the same level of attention as it does other threats,” the report says. It then adds, that the United States lacks a centralized leader for biodefense, as well as a strategic plan and budget.
To remedy these shortcomings, the report says, the “leadership of biodefense” should be a White House responsibility, and be placed in the office of the Vice President. The report stipulates that the Vice President’s position can help transcend the bureaucratic and budgetary rivalries of various agencies in order to create an effective platform for dealing with biological attacks.
The panel’s report cites the growing threat presented by the Islamic State as well as the repeated mishandling of lethal biological agents by the U.S. government as reasons to treat the threat of bioweapons as a pressing national security issue.