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Friday, September 24th, 2021

Commission urges Congress to strengthen biodefense of infrastructure

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The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense urged Congress to take action to protect the country’s critical infrastructure from biological threats on Wednesday.

In two recent reports, The Apollo Program for Biodefense: Winning the Race Against Biological Threats, and Biodefense in Crisis: Immediate Action Needed to Address National Vulnerabilities, the commission said pandemics caused by coronaviruses, influenza, and other diseases have decreased the ability to defend critical infrastructure because of decreased manpower due to illness and death, has prevented government facilities from operating efficiently and strained the country’s ability to produce and provide medical countermeasures to biothreats while increasing the demand for power, water, and other resources.

“The Commission urged President Biden, when he first introduced his infrastructure proposal in March, to work with both sides of the aisle to find areas of agreement. He has done exactly that, and it seems that a workable deal is in sight,” said former U.S. Senator and Commission Co-Chair Joe Lieberman. “As COVID-19 continues to demonstrate, the Nation’s critical infrastructure remains at biological risk. Ten pandemics and major epidemics have affected America to date, and it is obvious that the current COVID-19 pandemic is not a once-in-century event. Congress should take this unique opportunity to address capability gaps now before the next pandemic, or biological attack occurs.”

In letters to the chairs and ranking members of 20 House and Senate oversight committees, the commission addressed all 16 critical infrastructure sectors, detailing more than 50 biodefense recommendations Congress should include in the final package for President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.

Among the items, the commission deemed priorities were establishing a Critical Infrastructure Biodefense Program within the Department of Homeland Security, issuing public health regulations for air travel, establishing guidelines for schools during biological events, and requiring financial institutions to address the impact of biological events on business continuity.