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National Vulnerabilities in Bio Defense

A foreseeable combination of mutations, lack of immunity, poor preparedness, limited surveillance, and failure to learn from past pandemics.

The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense has been around since 2014. During its entire existence, it has sounded the alarm about readiness for a biological attack on the United States. More recently, the Commission has pivoted to include pandemic preparedness in its messaging. 

You can read the announcement below and also find the link to the report that was just released. It is true that we were not ready for a bio attack or a pandemic, evidenced by our terrible federal and state responses that have been inconsistent and at times incoherent. 

I also have to add that the BioWatch system has been the type of federal boondoggle that feeds contractors and keeps on giving year after year with no evidence that there is a good return on the investment being made in money, time and emphasis. Kill it!! I’ve provided a link that explains what that is — just in case you have never heard of it.

Here’s the news release:

“WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 30, 2021) – A new analysis from the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense finds that the United States remains at catastrophic biological risk. The Commission is urging the Administration and Congress to take more actions now to avoid another pandemic or biological attack. Called Biodefense in Crisis: Immediate Action Needed to Address National Vulnerabilities, the report closely examines the extent of progress that has been made since the Commission released its seminal National Blueprint for Biodefense in 2015. Despite warnings from public health professionals and the Commission, the country was caught unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nation remains dangerously vulnerable to biological threats, despite some gains in preparedness and response.

“‘The COVID-19 pandemic was predictable,’ said Commission Co-Chair, former Senator Joe Lieberman. ‘That is what our Commission learned from the experts we have consulted since we began operations in 2014. This global crisis resulted from a foreseeable combination of mutations, lack of immunity, poor preparedness, limited surveillance, and failure to learn from past pandemics. When our Commission released its National Blueprint for Biodefense in 2015, we concluded that our recommendations could and should be implemented by the Executive and Legislative Branches within five years. However, out of our 87 recommended action items, the government has completed just 3, took some action to address 54, no action on 24, and emergency or crisis actions on 6 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are still more vulnerable to the next pandemic than we should be.’

“Biodefense in Crisis provides a fresh assessment of governmental efforts to implement the Commission’s recommendations to prevent, deter, prepare for, detect, respond to, attribute, recover from, and mitigate biological threats. It also includes eleven updated recommendations based in-part on real-time learning during the pandemic.

“‘While the current spotlight on COVID-19 is necessary and urgent, it would be a costly mistake to focus solely on this pandemic to the exclusion of all other biological threats,’ said Commission Co-Chair, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. ‘Nation-states such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia continue to invest heavily in advancing biotechnology and could produce biological agents and weapons. Terrorist organizations also remain interested in learning how to attack enemies with biological agents. National biodefense must begin and end with strong national leadership. The efforts of all federal departments and agencies with responsibilities for biodefense need to be coordinated, and they must be held accountable, by the White House.’

“Among the eleven new recommendations in the report, the Commission advises the President to establish a dedicated Deputy National Security Advisor for Biodefense, overseen by the Vice President and supported by NSC staff. The Commission clearly notes that one federal department cannot tell other departments and agencies what to do, especially in a critical area of responsibility like biodefense. A dedicated higher-level leader in the White House without responsibilities for multiple weapons of mass destruction, terrorist avenues, and national disasters is crucial.

“The Commission also continues to recommend eliminating the ineffective BioWatch program. Current BioWatch technology performs poorly and is far from the deterrence mechanism it was originally intended to be. It uses limited, decades-old collection equipment that only provides data hours or days after a biological event. Congressional appropriators should deny further funding to BioWatch activities until proven replacement technology is identified and confirmed to meet the needs of the Biodetection 2021 acquisition program.”

The full report may be accessed here. For interviews with Commission leadership, contact Steve Aaron at

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.