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U.S. Still Ill-Prepared For A Bioterror Attack

by Glenn Hess
February 1, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 5

The U.S. government is not taking the necessary steps to protect the nation from the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and terrorism, a congressionally mandated panel concluded last week. "The assessment is not a good one, particularly in the area of biological threats," says a report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation & Terrorism. "While the government has made progress on preventing such attacks, it is simply not paying consistent and urgent attention to the means of responding quickly and effectively so that they no longer constitute a threat," the report says. The commission criticized the White House and Congress for failing to build a rapid-response capability for dealing with bioterror threats and for not providing adequate oversight over homeland security and intelligence agencies. "Each of the last three Administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat," says former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), commission chairman. The panel warned a year ago that unless countries take decisive action, it is "more likely than not" that a WMD terrorist attack will occur somewhere in the world by 2013 (C&EN, Dec. 8, 2008, page 6).


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