Click to download the full report, BIODEFENSE – The Threat, the Cost & the Priority

There has been an explosive growth in biotechnology, and a greater knowledge of genetic engineering is spreading throughout the world. The tools used and experience required for bioengineering organisms that were once the province of experienced researchers and scientists are now routinely used in undergraduate and even high school biology classes.

What makes the biothreat significant is the fact that it is multidimensional, it transcends domestic and foreign policy, and it presents an element of surprise. Although there is little evidence of state or non-state actors developing biological weapons, there certainly are a lot of general biotechnology developments. Many competent scientists now have the ability to create bioweapons relatively easily. Even a small-scale biological attack would likely overshadow other domestic and international incidents, and promote social, economic, and political upheavals.

The United States faces several challenges, including a lack of reliable international public health efforts, perceived threats, and vulnerabilities as a nation. It is not possible to terror-proof the nation and those who wish to do harm are willing to adapt and will attempt to overcome any countermeasures that are implemented. Health resources, surveillance systems, epidemiological expertise, and laboratory networks must be integrated with healthcare, emergency management, law enforcement, national security systems, and others to be able to rapidly share information and communicate across sectors, both nationally and internationally.

Although difficult and expensive, consequence management and a new infusion of energy and support must be pushed to the forefront. DomPrep has taken steps in that direction by: (a) using a survey to solicit feedback from emergency planners, responders, and receivers, as well as the general public; and (b) bringing together subject-matter experts to discuss the survey results and address concerns related to biothreats.

Of the surveys that were sent out, 572 members of the general public and 577 DomPrep readers, who represent professionals within the emergency community, replied by completing the survey. As Matthew Kozey, principal research analyst in the Security, Energy, and Environment Department of NORC at the University of Chicago, pointed out during the briefing, “the data are unweighted, but nevertheless instructive.”

The biothreat topic is important not only for the actual risk of attack, but also the perceived risk. To be sufficiently prepared, a balance must be reached – for security, technology, and situational awareness.

Stephen Reeves

Major General Stephen Reeves, USA (Ret.), is a highly accomplished senior executive and an internationally recognized expert on chemical and biological defense as well as defense acquisition. He has testified as an expert witness on multiple occasions before the U.S. Congress and has been interviewed numerous times by the national and international print and television press. He also is a frequent speaker at both national and international defense and homeland security conferences. Experienced in leading and managing large, diverse, global, multi-billion dollar organizations, he established, and for seven years led, the first DoD Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.

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