Federal Efforts to Address the Threat of Bioterrorism: Selected Issues for Congress [March 18, 2010]   [open pdf - 202KB]

"The continued attempts by terrorist groups to launch attacks targeted at U.S. citizens have increased concerns that federal counterterrorism activities are insufficient to face the threat. The federal government's efforts to address the perceived threat of bioterrorism span many different agencies and are organized and directed through several strategy and planning documents. These agencies have implemented numerous disparate actions and programs in their statutory areas to address the threat. Despite these efforts, many experts, including congressional commissions, non-governmental organizations, and industry representatives, have highlighted weaknesses or flaws in the federal government's biodefense activities. Recent reports by congressional commissions have stated that the federal government's efforts to address the bioterrorism threat could be significantly improved. Key questions face congressional policymakers in these areas: Are the efforts already underway sufficient to face the threat of bioterrorism? Have the federal investments to date met the expectations of Congress or other stakeholders? Should these existing programs be altered, augmented, or terminated in the current environment of fiscal challenge? What is the appropriate federal role in response to the threat of bioterrorism, and what mechanisms are most appropriate for involving other stakeholders, including state and local jurisdictions, industry, and others? [...] Congress, through authorizing and appropriations legislation and its oversight activities, continues to influence the federal response to the bioterrorism threat. Congressional policymakers will likely be faced with many difficult choices about the priority of maintaining, shrinking, or expanding existing programs versus creating new programs to address identified deficiencies. Augmenting such programs may incur additional costs in a time of fiscal challenges while maintaining or shrinking such programs may be deemed as incurring unacceptable risks, given the potential for significant casualties and economic effects from a large-scale bioterror attack."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R41123
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