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Saturday, February 4th, 2023

Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense gains new expertise with exit of Shalala

Lisa Monaco

The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense recently bid farewell to one of its founding members, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, the newly elected U.S. Representative for Florida, and welcomed former White House Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco to fill those empty boots.

Monaco, who advised President Barack Obama on counterterrorism policy from 2013 to 2017, including pandemics and natural disasters, spent 15 years at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as a career federal prosecutor. She also held senior management positions at the DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Rep. Shalala (D-FL), who helped form the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense in 2014, served as the HHS Secretary under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. The 77-year-old lawmaker also was the president of the University of Miami, a private institution of higher education in Coral Gables, Fla., from 2001 through 2015.

“When I was first asked to join the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, I was uncertain as to what kind of an impact we could have as former government officials,” said Rep. Shalala. “But it has become apparent, especially with the release of the National Biodefense Strategy, that our recommendations are being taken seriously and acted upon.”

The study panel is a privately funded group established to comprehensively assess U.S. biodefense efforts. In 2015, the panel issued its report, A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts, which identified gaps and recommended changes to federal policy and law to bolster both biodefense and resource investments.

Ridge noted that Rep. Shalala hosted an important panel meeting in Miami that ultimately led to the report detailing recommendations for how state, local, tribal, and territorial governments could improve defenses against large-scale biological events.

Most notably, the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense report resulted in the White House’s September 2018 release of the National Biodefense Strategy and contributed significantly to the 2018 Farm Bill.

“We will miss Donna’s steadfast leadership and many vital contributions, and wish her well as she continues her remarkable career in public service, representing her constituents in Congress,” said Ridge.

Rep. Shalala said she’s proud of her work with the panel and leaves “knowing that the addition of Lisa Monaco will ensure that the panel remains a relevant, necessary, bipartisan voice that will help make America safer.”

Monaco brings “a tremendous wealth of knowledge to our bipartisan team,” said Lieberman, pointing out that as the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, she “was responsible for advising President Obama on all aspects of counterterrorism policy and strategy, and issues ranging from terrorist attacks at home and abroad to cybersecurity, pandemics, and natural disasters.”

“We have an ambitious agenda for 2019, so Lisa arrives at an ideal time,” said Lieberman.

Prior to her service in the White House, Monaco was counsel to and then chief of staff at the FBI. She was nominated in 2011 by President Obama and then confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the first female Assistant Attorney General for National Security. During her tenure, Monaco prioritized investigations and prosecutions of national security cyber threats, and under her leadership, a nationwide network of national security cyber prosecutors was created.

“It is a privilege for me to join a group of exemplary public servants and to continue working to better protect and defend the United States from a wide range of biological threats,” Monaco said earlier today. “This is an area of great concern to me and so I am especially pleased to assume a leadership role on this bipartisan panel that is not merely examining the issue, but putting forth specific, credible recommendations that are already making a difference.”

Monaco, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School, this fall coauthored The Next Pandemic Will Be Arriving Shortly, an opinion piece published on Sept. 28, 2018, by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“In the face of clear signs that the world is unprepared for the next outbreak, that devastating epidemics are a flight away, and that funding to combat these realities has been significantly cut back, the failure to take this crisis seriously is potentially deadly,” Monaco argued. “Global health security should not be seen solely as the pursuit of development do-gooders or international policy wonks. Rather, the clear lessons of Ebola and prior pandemics for the current U.S. administration should be that fighting disease outbreaks requires the sort of consensus-building and galvanization of global resources that [the recent] U.N. General Assembly was meant to celebrate and sustain.

“Cynical critiques of such cooperation ignore the mutual interdependence of our global community, which can’t be overturned by a speech or temporary set of inward-looking policy platforms,” she wrote.

Monaco began her legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable Jane R. Roth on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Other members of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense include former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former U.S. Rep. Jim Greenwood, and former Homeland Security Advisor Ken Wainstein. The panel is financially sponsored by the Hudson Institute.

The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense holds its next event, entitled Fighting the Next War: Defense Against Biological Weapons, at the Council on Foreign Relations office in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5.