Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 12, 2006

National Biosurveillance Integration System moves forward

Filed under: Biosecurity,Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christian Beckner on May 12, 2006

Government Computer News writes today about plans to move forward on the National Biosurveillance Integration System:

The Homeland Security Department expects to award a contract in mid-summer to develop the National Biosurveillance Integration System, a critical piece of the administration’s strategy to handle a pandemic, such as avian flu.

DHS plans for an initial version of the biosurveillance information management system six months after the award, said Kimothy Smith, DHS chief veterinarian, chief scientist and acting deputy chief medical officer.

The biosurveillance system will aggregate and integrate information from food, agricultural, public health and environmental monitoring and the intelligence community from federal and state agencies and private sources to provide an early warning system for an outbreak or possible bioterrorism attack.

“By integrating and fusing this large amount of available information, we can begin to develop a baseline or background against which we can recognize anomalies and changes of significance indicating potential biological events,” he told the House Homeland Security Committee’s prevention of nuclear and biological attack subcommittee yesterday.

DHS will combine the biosurveillance patterns and trends with threat information and include the completed product in its Common Operating Picture, which DHS distributes through the Homeland Security Information Network. The biosurveillance system will also send back to its system partner agencies completed situational awareness in real-time streams.

This could become an important tool in the biosecurity toolbelt, and it’s good to see it moving forward. Implementing it will involve real challenges, especially in terms of getting the various federal, state and private stakeholders to cooperate with each other and share accurate information in real-time. And given the potential limitations discussed in this story, it also makes sense to think about how public, open-source information (blogs, web diairies, etc.) can augment these capabilities.

For more on the system, see this DHS presentation from 2004 and the multiple references to the NBIS in the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan released last week.

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