Addressing the threat of weapons of mass destruction

And the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Assistant Director for the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Dr. Vahid Majidi, has stated that there is a 100 percent chance of the United States being hit by a WMD attack at some point in the future.

Despite efforts to combat this very serious threat, the WMD Commission issued a report card last year that gave mixed reviews of Federal WMD prevention and preparedness efforts. In fact, the report card gave the government a grade of “F” on its efforts to enhance the nation’s capabilities for rapid response to prevent biological attacks from inflicting mass casualties.  

The WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2011 (WMD bill), which will be introduced by Representative Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) later this week and is the subject of our Subcommittees’ hearing on Thursday, seeks to address the findings of the WMD Commission’s report, World at Risk, and enhance Federal WMD prevention and preparedness efforts.

Recognizing the gaps in our biological preparedness specifically, the WMD bill calls for the development of a national biodefense plan, and requires the President to appoint a member of the National Security Staff to serve as the Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense. The WMD bill also requires the development of a national biosurveillance strategy.  

In the current budget climate, this bill is fiscally responsible, requiring a comprehensive cross-cutting biodefense budget analysis. This analysis will provide greater transparency and ensure that all efforts of Federal agencies and departments to combat biological threats are coordinated and that any redundancies are eliminated. This will lead to more targeted, efficient, and cost-effective biodefense programs. 

The WMD bill also promotes enhanced information sharing with state, local, tribal and private sector partners, and requires efforts to improve and promote individual and community preparedness for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks. The bill requires the development of guidance and modeling to enhance the ability of emergency response providers to respond to an attack, including guidance for the dispensing of medical countermeasures. 

The WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2011 has been informed by work in each of our Subcommittees this year and has benefited from input from experts in the field. Thursday’s joint hearing will provide further expert feedback.  

The threat of a WMD attack is real. We must do all we can to address this threat. We urge our colleagues to support the WMD Prevention of Preparedness Act of 2011.

Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis is the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. Rep. Daniel E. Lungren is the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies.