Homeland Security Today: DHS’ Bioterror Detection Program Unreliable, GAO Says

Although the US has made significant strides towards improving preparedness for a bioterrorist attack, the nation’s biosurveillance capabilities are a far cry from adequate, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found he nation’s billion dollar biosurveillance detection system can’t be counted on to actually work.
 
In April, the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications said a biological terrorist attack on the US is an “urgent and serious threat.”
 
The US began to recognize a bioterrorist attack as a serious and urgent threat just days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 when anonymous letters laced with deadly anthrax spores were sent through the mail, sickening 17 people and killing 5 others. The anthrax attacks awakened the nation to the catastrophic impact of a bioterrorist attack in the US.
 
Shortly thereafter, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quickly rolled out a biosurveillance program known as BioWatch to provide early warning of a biological weapon attack in the US. Deployed in more than 30 metropolitan areas throughout the country, the system uses aerosol collectors to detect the intentional release of select aerosolized biological agents.
 
However, GAO determined the rapid deployment of the program in 2003 did not allow for sufficient testing and evaluation of the system’s capabilities. The report said that without sufficient testing, DHS could not support the claim that the program could meets its operational objective to detect catastrophic attacks, which they define as attacks large enough to cause 10,000 casualties.
 
“DHS officials told us that in the 12 years since BioWatch’s initial deployment, they have not developed technical performance requirements against which to measure the system’s ability to meet its objective,” GAO stated.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.hstoday.us

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