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The U.S. Has a Biodefense Strategy. It Just Isn’t Following It.

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 —previously known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. Credit: NIAID-RML

The US has a biodefense strategy—it just isn’t following it. In 2018, the Trump administration released a National Biodefense Strategy which was supposed to help coordinate government-wide efforts like detecting and responding to diseases. Asha George, a biosecurity expert and member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board, says the implementation of the strategy has fallen short of expectations.

“The implementation of a national strategy, it was slow to begin, and it was slow to continue,” she says. “And it’s our understanding that it sort of ground to a halt during the assessment phase.”

Both of Trump’s immediate predecessors, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, released broad strategies on biodefense, only to see them get bogged down in the implementation and plagued by underfunding.

Even a federal assessment of the Trump biodefense strategy is behind schedule. The GAO, a government agency that investigates the effectiveness of federal programs, announced last June it would release a comprehensive report by the end of 2019. A spokesperson said Friday that the report was now expected during the week of Feb. 17, because of the difficulty of working with “so many different federal agencies.”

Read more at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists


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