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Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Rep. Katko introduces bill to restore axed DHS program to assess impact of pandemics on critical infrastructure

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U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) introduced legislation to restore a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program designed to assess a pandemic’s potential implications on critical infrastructure.

The bipartisan Analyzing Disaster Vulnerabilities and Applicable National Capabilities for Emergencies (ADVANCE) Act would reinstate a pandemic modeling program operated by the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC). NISAC conducted routine hazard exercises to ensure DHS was prepared to respond to natural disasters and public health crises that may threaten critical infrastructure.

The program was halted in 2017, leaving a gap in the nation’s preparedness and response capabilities when the COVID-19 hit.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the gaps in our preparedness for a pandemic of this size, and we’ve seen our nation suffer as a result,” Katko said. “I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation, which will reinstate an important program within the Department of Homeland Security that aims to predict and prepare our government for natural disasters and public health crises. The ADVANCE Act will better protect our country, ensuring we are never left unprepared again in the face of a natural disaster or public health crisis.”

It was co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA).

Through the ADVANCE Act, NISAC would be required to conduct hazard exercises twice a year. The exercises would enhance hands-on training while providing insight into how government agencies can better predict and prepare for crises. This would include how to mitigate their interconnected impact on critical infrastructures, such as the food supply, healthcare systems, and national defense. Also, NISAC would be required to report annually to Congress on the impact of natural disasters and public health emergencies on critical infrastructure.