Auditors say the Defense Department is not following its own procedures for guarding against “potentially catastrophic” biological strikes.
Pentagon rules require the agency each year to revisit its list of top biological-weapon threats, with an eye to possibly reshuffling the order of agents deemed most dangerous to its military personnel and civilians, the congressional Government Accountability Office said in a report issued on Thursday.
“Yet, [the Defense Department] does not follow its established process for updating its biological threat priorities,” auditors wrote in their assessment.
Failing to regularly weigh the relative risks posed by various weapon candidates, they said, makes it unclear whether the United States is pursuing medical treatments for “the most serious and likely biological threats.”
The Defense Department backed the report’s findings, according to a letter from Andrew Weber, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs.
The Pentagon would review its biodefense directives “to ensure they align with current … planning processes,” Weber wrote last week.
GAO auditors described “progress” in related areas, including Defense Department coordination with other federal offices to prepare against biological threats.
The Health and Human Services and Defense departments “have developed interagency agreements and other tools that facilitate communication on the various stages of medical countermeasure development,” auditors wrote.
In addition, the Pentagon has worked with the Homeland Security Department on measures “for identifying biological agents that pose domestic threats and risks,” the report states.
The Defense Department maintains sole responsibility for preparing medical countermeasures for U.S. military personnel.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
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