Cleland to Propose Bill to Establish New CDC Bioterrorism Center
Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) yesterday announced plans to propose legislation that would establish a new bioterrorism center at the Atlanta-based CDC, the Wall Street Journal reports. The center, called the National Center for Bioterrorism Response and Readiness, would coordinate the more than 20 U.S. offices that have some role in responding to a bioterrorist attack, Cleland said. The new center would train a bioterrorism response team, develop response plans to address bioterrorist attacks, develop electronic disease surveillance systems, administer grants to state and local governments to upgrade their public health systems and maintain the national stockpile of vaccines and antibiotics. Speaking at Emory University, Cleland said that he would likely propose the legislation next week and would ask for "several million" dollars to fund the new center (Carrns, Wall Street Journal, 4/4). "It's painfully obvious to me we're not really geared up for a really coordinated response to another terrorist attack. I've been plugging the CDC's role all along, but now is the time to formalize it," Cleland said. However, HHS spokesperson Bill Pierce said that the new CDC center would "duplicate existing efforts" to address bioterrorism. The Bush administration, for example, established the HHS Office of Public Health Preparedness last November to coordinate information in the event of a bioterrorist attack (AP/Baltimore Sun, 4/4). Cleland said that the new CDC center would "complement current programs" established to address bioterrorism. "The CDC is currently a voice in the chorus on bioterrorism, but I think it needs to be the conductor," he said (Wall Street Journal, 4/4).
In a separate announcement, the Atlanta-based Marcus Foundation, established by former Home Depot Inc. Chair Bernard Marcus, yesterday pledged $2.8 million to help the CDC establish a "high-technology emergency response center." The grant supplements a past $1.1 million donation from the foundation. The CDC will use the grants to help establish a 24-hour response center equipped with audio, video and data technology that will allow researchers to share and analyze information in real time. The center will include portable satellite transponders, which field researchers can use to transmit information and confer with colleagues in a crisis (Wall Street Journal, 4/4). Marcus "was moved to make the gift" after reports that on Sept. 11, CDC field researchers responding to the attacks in New York City could not communicate with Atlanta as a result of inadequate communications equipment. Although the federal government might authorize funding for improved communications equipment, Marcus said he did not want to wait. "For them to get this equipment through the federal government is a hassle, so we are taking that hassle away from them," Marcus said (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.