New biodefense plan seeks more research, tech to fend off outbreaks

President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday released a new biodefense strategy designed to help the nation better protect itself from future pandemics and biological threats.

As part of the plan, the administration is asking Congress for $88 billion over the next five years to fund new research and technology, speed up testing and shorten the timeframe for vaccine development.

“The United States must be prepared for outbreaks from any source — whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate,” said a White House press release.

Biological threats like COVID-19, Ebola, or even bioweapons like anthrax are considered a serious national security issue by the government because they can devastate communities at home and abroad.

The new strategy comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday that COVID-19 vaccination be included in the annual vaccination schedule for adults and children. It also builds on a pandemic preparedness strategy from the previous year and the government’s long-delayed national security strategy it released last week.

One of the strategy’s main goals is to develop vaccines within 100 days of an outbreak and then have enough for the entire US population within 130 days.

It also outlines the government’s interest in increasing healthcare workforces, expanding international partnerships for vaccine supply, strengthening laboratory security, and preventing the use and development of bioweapons.

Despite the fact that Congress has yet to approve the money to fund the plan, a senior Biden administration official said in a background call to reporters that the administration is “already implementing key activities in the national biodefense strategy with core funding.” .

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The new bio-threat plan came just days before a government watchdog released a snapshot report urging both the Pentagon and intelligence agencies to do more to prepare for bio-threats.

Thursday’s release from the US Government Accountability Office highlighted three reports it made to the Department of Defense and to intelligence agencies earlier this year, citing recommendations that have yet to be implemented, including for the Pentagon, “an integrated and comprehensive biodefense strategy.” ” to create.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last November directed the Pentagon to do just that by launching a “Biodefense Posture Review,” which will assess the biological threat landscape.

“There are many things that COVID-19 has taught us. But what’s important, one of the important things COVID has taught us is that to counter pandemic threats, we need to be able to move much faster, and we also need to be prepared for completely unknown threats – so don’t only the things we know, but the things we don’t know,” said the senior administrator.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for the Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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