America Needs to Strengthen Biodefense Now | Commentary

The United Nations Security Council recently heard firsthand testimony from the victims of a chemical-weapons attack in Syria. A Syrian doctor spoke of his frantic efforts to treat more than 100 people who were hit by chlorine-filled bombs in the town of Sarmeen. Many were vomiting and suffering respiratory distress.
These kinds of attacks are becoming more common and will increasingly be a component of 21st-century warfare. America’s enemies are clearly equipped to carry them out. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State have said they intend to acquire biological and chemical weapons — and use them against America.
Unfortunately, our nation is dangerously unprepared to prevent or respond to such attacks. Whether the actor is another country, a terrorist organization or even Mother Nature, the consequences are potentially catastrophic. That is why we agreed to become co-chairmen of a new panel on biodefense, hosted by Hudson Institute and Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies, whose members include former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Rep. Jim Greenwood and former Homeland Security Adviser Kenneth Wainstein.
Congress and the president must devote more attention to the threats posed by biological and chemical agents — formulating and executing a coherent and comprehensive plan to protect the American people from them now.

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