Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 9, 2009

Lieberman and Collins push bioterror bill

Filed under: Biosecurity — by Philip J. Palin on September 9, 2009

Yesterday Senators Lieberman and Collins, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced  the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009.

Senator Lieberman explained, “Our bill would strengthen security at labs using the most dangerous pathogens, improve our capabilities to assess the threat of terrorists acquiring WMD, ensure that citizens get critical safety information, and develop a means for quickly delivering life-saving drugs to areas that have been attacked.”

According to a joint statement available on the Senate Committee’s website, the legislation would also,

  • Require HHS to designate the most dangerous pathogens which have significant potential to be used effectively in a biological attack.
  • Require DHS to set new security standards for labs using the most dangerous pathogens, including risk assessments, personnel reliability programs, and staff training.
  • Require a national strategy for dispensing antibiotics and other medicines to the public and expand a pilot program for using the Postal Service to dispense them. 
  • Require communications plans to convey instructions to the public – including whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place – in the critical moments after an attack.
  • Support a National Bioforensics Analysis Center to identify the perpetrator of a WMD attack rapidly. 
  • Provide personal medical kits to emergency responders in order to enable them to respond quickly to a WMD attack without jeopardizing their own safety. 
  • Require DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide better terrorism threat and risk assessments to the public.
  • Promote citizen and community preparedness for WMD attacks, including by authorizing grants to States.

The  bill is not yet available via the Thomas website. The Senate Committee’s website  provides a pdf of  the proposed legislation.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 9, 2009 @ 6:44 am

Hoping this bill will result in oversight and documentation of the issues it addresses so far. The bill will hopefully clear the Committee and the Senate but doubtful that some of it would or could survive the review of the House of Representatives. What it does do is pick up on suggestions of the December 2008 Commission Report largely addressing Bioterrorism and the threat it represents. Appears the British are far far ahead of the US in their thinking and preparedness for such an event. Perhaps the MAD COW DISEASE outbreak taught them a brutal but necessary lesson (s)! With respect to that pathogen the US still does little except ring its hands and worry should there be an outbreak and then not for impacts on its populace but on its economy. Hey the Obama Adminsitration is having a great chance to improve over Swine Flu outbreak. But unfortunately, like the British who now suspect the real threat of their lack of MAD COW disease efforts will only evidence itself in the next two decades (prion damage documented as often having delayed effects)! So again MOTHER NATURE DOES NOT GRANT VARIANCES and biological WMD do appear to be the poor man’s weapon!

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