Strengthening our biodefense policy


By BG (Ret.) William King, Co-Editor CBNW

I know you are like so many of our fellow Americans. We are tired of hearing about, experiencing, and living through the trauma, life challenges, and losses of COVID 19 and the scare of continued Pandemics and Catastrophic WMD events. Over the past three years of living through this nightmare, well over 1.1 million Americans lost their lives and 30+ Trillion of lost National Treasure associated with COVID 19. 

I hope not, but I suspect many of you can immediately recall to your thoughts right now, of someone you knew that died as a result of COVID 19. We would truly think of NO worse conditions that could have nor should have driven us to react and prepare now for the next pandemic and major WMD event coming via what we have experienced together with COVID 19. Even with an excess of 1.1 million Americans killed and tens of trillions of National Treasure lost, we are still dragging our feeton what needs to be done to prepare now and my fear is we are losing each day the momentum and desire to ACT NOW. A great read and what I believe is spot on target with recommendations is in the 9 March 2022 Bipartisan Commission on Biological Defense Report. The Commission recently issued their 2.0 version of the report in a public forum in their DC office. 

One year ago, Dr Asha George, the Executive Director of this Commission, and I mentioned this report and that, of the 87 recommendations offered back then only 3 were completed, 4 were in crisis action, 34 were in partial action and 46 were not actioned. Today that has improved a little with the same 3 completed, 6 in crisis action (+2), 56 in partial action (+22), and 22 remain with NO Action. The Commission keeps an online status update of the recommendations and the specific actions the U.S. Federal Government has taken for each and every recommendation.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published in March their snapshot report Titled “Biodefense: Actions Needed to Address Long Standing Challenges” and from their original report published in 2021 with 29 recommendations, 21 remain unimplemented. The vast majority of these match the ones in the Commission report. 

In fact, since 21 January 2021, when the Biden Admin started its first day announcement with National Security Memorandum #1 and their 199-page National Strategy for COVID 19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, there have been numerous Strategies and Assessments released that document the threats and extensive listings of recommendations (many of them repeated from one report to the next) of what should be done to address those gaps. Even I through the National Defense Industry Association Defense News and the NCT CBNW magazines have published extensively on the same. These articles, reports, assessments, and strategies are not only at the U.S. Federal level, both the European Union and NATO have published similar. The President of the United States and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff have called this an Inflection Point in a Decisive Decade. We either chose to ACT NOW to win the coming next war or accept that we will lose and in my personal words lose greater lives and treasure and in fact our way of life as we know it if we chose not to ACT NOW.

Now some of you are now thinking, why is he making these very sensationalist comments? Well, we know the threats now and can somewhat confidently predict what is in the realm of the possible coming and know what needs to be done to better prepare and respond. 

What we clearly LACK is the WILL to make the necessary changes in:

  • Leadership/Management.
  • Authority/Policies.
  • Measurable and Accountable Implementation, Plan/Operations.
  • Technology and Material Acquisition and Development.
  • The qualified people to make it happen.   

All this is not to imply that the people in the CBRNe industry are not capable as I know you have invested your time and energy to learn and to share with others what can each of us do to help. My challenge to each of you is to proactively participate, ask the right questions, deduce what you can and should be doing to help, and to learn from our past so we do not have to pay such a high cost of lives and treasure for the next WMD event.

Thank you for your professional interest in this critical topic. God Help Us if we do not learn and act from lessons and observations of the past. If we do not act now, we are doomed to repeat the experience or worse in the future and the cost of doing so is so deadly and expensive.

Read more on the 2022 Bipartisan Commission on Biological Defense Report. And the GAO Biodefense Report.

About the Author

BG (Ret.) William King has served in a wide variety of command, leadership, and staff positions across numerous levels of the U.S. Army, Joint Task Forces, Regional Commands, and most recently as the Commanding General 20th CBRNE Command before retiring on 19 July 2017 with 30+ years of active-duty US Army service. Today he is a Principal/Director at Booz Allen Hamilton, responsible for developing the market for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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