Nearly nine years after the Sept. 11 and anthrax attacks, the nation still lacks a national strategy and designated leader to develop a national biosurveillance capability, according to the Government Accountability Office, a watchdog arm of Congress.

In the first of a series of forthcoming reports, GAO reviewed the biosurveillance programs, plans and strategies of 12 federal government departments with biosurveillance responsibilities. It found that agencies are struggling with skilled personnel shortages but have taken various actions to promote timely detection and situational awareness of threats. Still, coordination of federal efforts is lacking.

"While national biodefense strategies have been developed to address biological threats such as pandemic influenza, there is neither a comprehensive national strategy nor a focal point with the authority and resources to guide the effort to develop a national biosurveillance capability," according to the GAO. "For example, the National Security Council issued the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats in November 2009. While this strategy calls for the development of a national strategy for situational awareness, it does not meet the need for a biosurveillance strategy. In addition, this strategy includes objectives that would be supported by a robust and integrated biosurveillance capability, such as obtaining timely and accurate insight on current and emerging risks, but it does not provide a framework to help identify and prioritize investments in a national biosurveillance capability."

To access the GAO report, click here.

--Joseph Goedert


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