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GAO: DoD Needs Leader on Chem-Bio Defense Infrastructure

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear SymbolsA new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that after nearly 7 years, the Department of Defense (DoD) Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) Enterprise has not yet fully achieved its goal to identify required infrastructure capabilities.

The Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense Program Analysis and Integration Office (PAIO), CBDP’s analytical arm, recommended in 2008 that the CBDP Enterprise identify required infrastructure capabilities, such as laboratories to research chemical and biological agents, to ensure alignment of the infrastructure to its mission.

Officials told GAO that the failure to make significant progress in achieving this infrastructure goal was due to efforts being focused on higher priorities and the lack of CBDP Enterprise-wide impetus to address the infrastructure recommendations.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs previously identified the need for an entity that has the responsibility and authority needed to ensure achievement of this goal, but DOD has not yet designated such an entity.

By identifying and designating an entity with the responsibility and authority to lead infrastructure transformation, the CBDP Enterprise would be better positioned to achieve this goal, concludes the GAO report.

In July 2015 PAIO plans to inventory and analyze CBDP Enterprise infrastructure for potential duplication laboratories to identify duplication in its chemical and biological defense infrastructure. However, GAO found that defense officials were not planning to incorporate capability studies from other federal entities such as the Department of Homeland Security, missing the opportunity to analyze existing federal CBRN infrastructure potential for use.

GAO further found that the DoD’s CBDP Enterprise used threat data from risk assessments piloted in 2014 to support its future portfolio planning process to prioritize research and development investment. However, the CBDP Enterprise has not updated its guidance and planning process to fully institutionalize the use of risk assessments.

“Federal standards for internal control state that agencies should have written procedures to better ensure leadership directives are implemented. According to CBDP Enterprise officials, while updating the guidance would be beneficial, they had not committed to updating such guidance or established a time frame for doing so,” states the report. “By updating its guidance to fully institutionalize the use of risk assessments, the CBDP Enterprise would be better positioned to prioritize future research and development investments.”

GAOs final recommendations suggest DoD designate an entity to lead the effort to identify required infrastructure; identify, request, and consider any information from chemical and biological infrastructure studies of other federal agencies to avoid potential duplication; and update the CBDP Enterprise’s guidance and planning process to fully institutionalize the use of risk assessments.

Read the report: Chemical and Biological Defense – Designated Entity Needed to Identify, Align, and Manage DOD’s Infrastructure (June 2015)

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