Oversight of High-Containment Biological Laboratories: Issues for Congress [May 4, 2009]   [open pdf - 350KB]

"The federal government responded to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks with increased focus on and funding for biodefense. A key consideration in this response was addressing shortages in diagnostic, clinical, and research laboratory capacity. […]. Policymakers have become increasingly interested in the oversight of these facilities following reports of accidents, regulatory noncompliance, and community resistance. The increase in high-containment laboratory capacity has raised new policy questions and emphasized existing ones. How much laboratory capacity is enough? What is the necessary federal investment? Should laboratories be consolidated or dispersed? What plans exist to coordinate multiple agency efforts to expand high-containment laboratory capacity? Does increasing laboratory capacity increase the risk of accidents and the opportunity for purposeful misuse? What is an acceptable balance between the benefits these laboratories provide and the risks they pose? […]. A key task for policymakers is to define their goals for enhancing oversight of high-containment laboratories. The focus of the oversight effort may affect which policy issues are addressed. For example, focusing on a registry of existing high-containment laboratory capacity may improve planning, coordination, and efficiency of use but provide relatively limited security benefits. […]. When weighing options to address these complex policy issues, policymakers may have to reconcile many competing and potentially conflicting national needs."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R40418
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