Sen. Kennedy, GAO Express Concern About Bush Plan for Homeland Security
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the General Accounting Office have raised concerns about President Bush's proposal to move bioterrorism-related functions from the CDC and NIH to a new Homeland Security Department, CongressDaily reports (Rovner, CongressDaily, 7/16). Bush announced yesterday that a "major component" of his administration's plan would be to make the CDC a "vital part" of the Homeland Security Department to develop new vaccines and antidotes against bioterrorist threats. Also under the plan, the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service would be "expanded and modernized," allowing it to train local and state officials to better recognize a biological attack (Schatz/Kopkowski, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/17).
Speaking at a congressional committee hearing yesterday, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the new department would "unify much of the federal government's efforts to develop and implement scientific and technological countermeasures against ... diseases that could be used as terrorist weapons." However, Kennedy noted that many health organizations have come to the "overwhelming conclusion ... that transferring public health preparedness programs away from the CDC or stripping NIH of its ability to make key decisions about the nation's bioterrorism research program would do a disservice to the goal of enhancing our security." GAO Director of Public Health Issues Janet Heinrich concurred during her testimony, saying, "We have concerns about the proposed transfer of control of public health assistance programs that have both basic public health and homeland security functions from HHS to the new department. These dual-purpose programs have important synergies that we believe should be maintained" (CongressDaily, 7/16).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.