Graham/Talent report raises alarms
October 12, 2011
Washington, D.C.— Former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO), chair and vice chair of the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center (The WMD Center), today (Oct. 12, 2011) released a much-anticipated Bio-Response Report Card, indicating that despite progress over the past decade, the nation remains largely unprepared for a large-scale bio-terrorism attack or deadly disease outbreak. Informed by many of the nation’s leading bio-defense experts, the Report Card provides an objective, strategic analysis of the nation’s readiness to respond to various levels of biological disasters.

According to the report, advances in biotechnology have now enabled a small team of individuals with college-level training, to create deadly biological weapons. “A thinking enemy, armed with biological weapons, could change the very nature of America—our economy, our government, and even our social structure,” Graham said. “America does not yet have adequate bio-response capability to meet fundamental expectations during a large-scale biological event.”

The Report Card offers an assessment of America’s current capabilities in seven crucial categories of bio-response. It also measures these capabilities in relation to the magnitude of potential biological scenarios—ranging across six levels with increasing severity from “Small-Scale Non-Contagious” to “Global Crisis Contagious.” There are 45 letter grades in this report card ranging from Bs to Fs.

“Our nation’s leaders must ensure that those responsible for defending America against bio-terrorism are provided the resources, organizational framework, public policies, and leadership to meet this escalating national security and public health threat,” Talent said. “We can and must make progress.”

In the past decade, the United States government has spent more than $65 billion on bio-defense, and yet it has done so without an end-to-end, strategic assessment of the nation’s bio-response capabilities.

In its evaluation, the WMD Center recommends focusing on improving response capabilities for large-scale events, as opposed to the most extreme scenarios. The report identifies three strategic priorities:

  1. Leadership that sets clear priorities and engenders commitment and unity of effort

  2. Mobilizing “whole of nation” response planning

  3. Sustained investment in purpose-driven science.

The Report Card does suggest that the nation’s ability to respond to a relatively small-scale attack-—such as the 2001 anthrax letters--has significantly improved over the past 10 years.

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