U.S. Rep. Jason Crow has introduced legislation to clarify the nation’s strategy for preparing for biological threats and infectious diseases, after an audit report found several deficiencies earlier this year.
“As a soldier, I learned that preparation can mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield. The federal government must take the same approach,” said Crow.
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 ordered the creation of a national biodefense strategy. In September 2018, the White House released the strategy and created the Biodefense Steering Committee, plus a related coordination body to implement the goals outlined in the document.
However, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which audits the federal government, found that the biodefense framework lacked clarity about decision-making processes and the analysis of data.
“Officials from four agencies stated that the charter for the Biodefense Coordination Team has not been finalized, further delaying the articulation of roles and responsibilities and the ability to establish a shared agenda and common operating picture,” Chris P. Currie and Mary Denigan-Macauley of the GAO told a House of Representatives committee in March. “As a result, some officials remain skeptical of the effectiveness of any decisions made.”
Crow’s bill would require each agency participating in the steering committee to enter into a memorandum of understanding laying out their duties and would require procedures for analyzing data. The legislation would also mandate an inventory and assessment of all existing policies pertaining to biological threats.