Homeland Security Department Not Equipped To Analyze Bioterrorist Threat, Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) Writes
The Homeland Security Department's Office of Information Analysis "is not remotely close to having the tools it needs to meet its critical mandate" of assessing potential bioterrorist attacks, which calls into question the Bush administration's proposed Project BioShield, Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), ranking minority member on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, wrote in a letter to President Bush, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The remarks follow a hearing last week in which Paul Redmond, assistant secretary for information analysis at the Homeland Security Department, said that he was not ready to disclose specific bioterrorist threat information and that the agency lacks complete information regarding which pathogens present the most serious threats. Referring to Bush's Project BioShield plan, under which the government would have wide authority to research, buy and distribute vaccines and antidotes to protect against bioterrorist attacks, Turner said, "We can't afford to make a multimillion-dollar mistake" by contracting with drug makers when officials cannot discern threats. Turner also noted that the Office of Information Analysis has hired one microbiologist and 25 analysts and cannot hire more staff members because of insufficient office space. Homeland Security Department spokesperson Brian Roehrkasse said officials plan to hire an additional 20 analysts by the end of June and 85 more by the end of September, the AP/Sun reports. He added that the department "has made significant progress in fulfilling its mission, and we realize there is a significant challenge ahead" (Abrams, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/9).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.