Will the U.S. Keep Buying Medicine for ‘Black Swan’ Attacks?

An analytical chemist in Pennsylvania conducts testing for a developmental drug in 2003. Lawmakers are set to consider whether to continue funding a multibillion-dollar program to develop drug treatments for relatively unlikely unconventional attacks.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Add to Briefcase
Diane Barnes
June 26, 2014, 11 a.m.

Con­gress will weigh this year wheth­er to con­tin­ue spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars on an­ti­dotes for at­tacks seen as re­l­at­ively un­likely, but po­ten­tially dev­ast­at­ing.

Law­makers helped to es­tab­lish Pro­ject Bioshield in 2004 to in­centiv­ize oth­er­wise un­prof­it­able work on treat­ments for exot­ic pos­sible ter­ror­ism tools, such as an­thrax and botulin­um tox­in. In com­ing months, though, the dec­ade-old ini­ti­at­ive could face un­pre­ced­en­ted scru­tiny of its fund­ing, in part due to a dearth of chem­ic­al, bio­lo­gic­al, ra­di­olo­gic­al and nuc­le­ar at­tacks in the United States since its launch, says a newly pub­lished Con­gres­sion­al Re­search Ser­vice re­port.

“Con­gres­sion­al poli­cy­makers could de­cide not to fund Pro­ject Bioshield,” ana­lyst Frank Got­tron said in the as­sess­ment. “Giv­en the con­tin­ued ab­sence of any [WMD] ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the United States since 2001, [they] could deem that the per­ceived risk of an at­tack no longer jus­ti­fies [the] con­tin­ued in­vest­ment.”

“Al­tern­at­ively, poli­cy­makers could deem oth­er, more con­ven­tion­al, coun­ter­meas­ure pro­cure­ment meth­ods suf­fi­cient or more ef­fi­cient than Pro­ject Bioshield and re­dir­ect fund­ing to those pro­grams,” Got­tron wrote.

Con­gress guar­an­teed Pro­ject Bioshield a steady $560 mil­lion in an­nu­al fund­ing for its first dec­ade by set­ting aside bil­lions in ad­vance. The Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment set aside more than half of the pro­gram’s 10-year, $5.6 bil­lion “spe­cial re­serve fund” to ac­quire treat­ments for symp­toms of a wide vari­ety of po­ten­tial un­con­ven­tion­al as­saults. Of the $3.3 bil­lion ear­marked for WMD threats, about one-third went to­ward small­pox drugs, in case the long-erad­ic­ated vir­us is ever re­built or re­leased from a rare labor­at­ory stock­pile.

Law­makers last year au­thor­ized the pro­gram to con­tin­ue re­ceiv­ing the same amount of money through fisc­al 2018. Rather than main­tain­ing its spe­cial re­serve fund, though, they left fund­ing levels to be de­term­ined through the an­nu­al ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess.

The pro­gram re­ceived $255 mil­lion in fisc­al 2014 ap­pro­pri­ations, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing $415 mil­lion in the up­com­ing budget cycle.

“The switch to an­nu­al ap­pro­pri­ations may com­plic­ate [the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment’s] long-term coun­ter­meas­ure de­vel­op­ment and ac­quis­i­tion plan­ning,” Got­tron wrote. “Some de­velopers con­tend that an ad­vance ap­pro­pri­ation helps com­pany man­age­ment more fa­vor­ably con­sider a po­ten­tial coun­ter­meas­ure when weigh­ing in­tern­al in­vest­ment op­por­tun­ity costs.”

Law­makers may ul­ti­mately re­in­state an ap­proach sim­il­ar to the 10-year re­serve fund, the ana­lyst ad­ded.

“De­velopers might prefer ad­vance ap­pro­pri­ations for as long a peri­od as pos­sible,” he wrote. “However, provid­ing an ad­vance ap­pro­pri­ation dur­ing the cur­rent fisc­al en­vir­on­ment may prove more dif­fi­cult than in 2003.”

What We're Following See More »
STARTS LEGAL FUND FOR WH STAFF
Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
14 hours ago
THE DETAILS
DISCUSSED THE MATTER FOR A NEW BOOK
Steele Says Follow the Money
15 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."

Source:
BRITISH PUBLICIST CONNECTED TO TRUMP TOWER MEETING
Goldstone Ready to Meet with Mueller’s Team
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The British publicist who helped set up the fateful meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 is ready to meet with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's office, according to several people familiar with the matter. Rob Goldstone has been living in Bangkok, Thailand, but has been communicating with Mueller's office through his lawyer, said a source close to Goldstone."

Source:
SPEAKING ON RUSSIAN STATE TV
Kislyak Says Trump Campaign Contacts Too Numerous to List
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said on Wednesday that it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he's met with or spoken to on the phone. ... Kislyak made the remarks in a sprawling interview with Russia-1, a popular state-owned Russian television channel."

Source:
“BLOWING A SURE THING”
Sabato Moves Alabama to “Lean Democrat”
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login