Biodefense Essential to Nation's Safety (Rep. Mike Rogers)

A congressionally-mandated bipartisan commission announced recently it has found that terrorists are more likely to obtain materials for a biological attack than to buy or steal nuclear weapons. In a December 2008 report, the commission also cautioned that without a greater focus on biosecurity, a biological attack is very possible within the next five years.

This report and other sources highlight the need for Congress to reauthorize and update the Select Agent Program (SAP), which controls the transfer of biological agents and toxins that are potential bioterrorism threats.

I have joined with Rep. Jane Harman of California and with Senators Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Richard Burr of North Carolina to introduce legislation in the House and Senate to restore the SAP, which was originally implemented in 1990. Following the 2001 anthrax attacks, it was expanded to cover a wider range of potential threats. It expired in 2007.

Our biodefense innovators are making tremendous progress with countermeasures, and our legislation will ensure that their research continues with updated lab standards, improved training, and expanded information sharing between federal, state and local governments, all key to keeping our nation secure.

Incidents such as the suspected theft of anthrax from a Maryland lab and the suicide of a person of interest in the case spotlight the importance of providing the tools necessary to track and protect against toxins and biological agents.

Deadly toxins such as flu strains, smallpox, anthrax, and ricin are silent weapons. They are undetectable until after the damage is done. Our nation’s defense relies on strong oversight of these deadly agents, and this legislation ensures that we can protect Americans from biological threats.

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