Biological terrorism warnings gaining increased attention

Concerns about the risk of biological attack on the United States have led the list of potential threats in 3 important reports released in December, making it increasingly likely that both policy and technology to combat biological terrorism will be at the forefront of HS policy in the Obama administration.

  • WORLD AT RISK: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism: The bi-partisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism released this long-awaited report on December 4th about the current state of the WMD threat against the U.S..  The report states that the odds are greater than ever that the world will see an attack using a biological or nuclear weapon in the next five years, with biological weapons considered the greatest threat.
  • Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism: Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released the sixth annual Ready or Not? report, which finds that progress made to better protect the country from disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and bioterrorism is now at risk, due to budget cuts and the economic crisis.  In addition, the report concludes that major gaps remain in many critical areas of preparedness, including surge capacity, rapid disease detection, and food safety – all of which could increase the damage from a biological attack.
  • DHS Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013: This intelligence assessment predicts that in the next five years, terrorists will try to carry out a catastrophic biological attack.
    • NOTE: This assessment was marked “for official use only,” but was leaked to the media the week of Dec. 22.  Since I don’t condone leaking details of reports not intended for public distribution, I won’t include any links to the report or to any details of it until/unless it’s officially released for public distribution.
  • Update 01/08/2009: The threat of biological terrorism was emphasized at at a Washington Institute Special Policy Forum Wednesday, with speakers including current Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Ken Wainstein and former CIA Counterterrorist Center department chief Charles “Sam” Faddis.

Public Exposure: Both the WMD Commission report and the DHS threat assessment received widespread coverage on mainstream media outlets, including Fox, CBS, MSNBC, and the Los Angeles Times.

Expectations: In my post on the WMD Commission report, I said to expect alot more focus on biological terrorism, including legislation and funding for both R&D and increasing capabilities.  In addition, as these reports gain more public exposure, and as voters become more numb to bad financial news, expect alot more political attention on homeland security and biological terrorism, especially from U.S. Senators who will be up for re-election in 2010.

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