Biological threats pose some of the gravest health risks in our increasingly interconnected world. They can be naturally occurring, such as outbreaks of Ebola infections, or bioterrorism, such as the anthrax attacks in 2001. A study reported this week renews worries about human-made biological agents. Scientists synthesized an extinct horsepox virus closely related to smallpox, the deadliest microbe in human history. Smallpox has been eradicated, but the work raises the possibility that it would be relatively straightforward to synthesize the smallpox virus.

Within the U.S. government, there are many positions across multiple agencies and departments that are vital for national decision-making about how to prevent, detect and respond to bioterrorism threats. But a large number of key positions remain unfilled by the Trump administration, including positions involved in making decisions about response, funding and medical countermeasures. Below is a list of some of those positions and their status, based on information from experts and the Partnership for Public Service. Some individuals are serving in an acting capacity. Others have been nominated but not yet confirmed. Many positions are vacant.

White House

  • Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy (no nominee)

Department of Health and Human Services

  • Assistant secretary for preparedness and response (no nominee)
  • Surgeon general (Jerome Adams, not yet confirmed)
  • Assistant secretary for health (Brett Giroir, not yet confirmed)
  • Assistant secretary for financial resources (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for legislation (Matthew Bassett, not yet confirmed)

U.S. Agency for International Development

  • Administrator (Mark Green, not yet confirmed)
  • Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) (no appointment)
  • Assistant administrator for global health (no nominee)

Department of State

  • Assistant secretary for oceans, environment and science, which oversees State's efforts on biodefense and pandemic coordination. (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, which oversees State’s efforts on the Biological Weapons Convention and biosecurity engagement. (no nominee)
  • Undersecretary for management, responsible for decisions about overseas personnel, medical evacuations (Eric Ueland, not yet confirmed)
  • Undersecretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment (no nominee)
  • Undersecretary for arms control and international security (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for African affairs (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for South Asian affairs (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs (no nominee)

Federal Bureau of Investigation

  • Director

Department of Defense

  • Assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict (Owen West, not yet confirmed)
  • Assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense (no nominee)

Department of Homeland Security

  • Undersecretary for science and technology (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary Office of Policy (no nominee)
  • Assistant secretary for health affairs and chief medical officer (Larry Fluty, acting)

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