Executive order on lab biosecurity

President Bush issued an executive order last week establishing a working group to review biosecurity at U.S. labs and issue a report to the President within 180 days with “recommendations for any new legislation, regulations, guidance, or practices for security and personnel assurance” and “options for establishing oversight mechanisms.”  The order covers “federal and nonfederal facilities that conduct research on, manage clinical or environmental laboratory operations involving, or handle, store, or transport biological select agents and toxins.”

Insufficient biosecurity at U.S. labs was highlighted in the report from the Commission on the Prevention of  WMD Proliferation and Terrorism released last month.  In response to that report, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs indicated it may introduce legislation to strengthen lab security as well.

There is considerable overlap in purpose between the new working group and the Senate committee efforts, and the Commission has undoubtedly done some of the investigative work outlined in the executive order.  So the new working group may serve more as a platform to ensure executive branch agency cooperation and input into new legislation than as an actual investigative body.

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