WASHINGTON, DC – The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation and the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities today held a joint hearing on biosecurity and emerging biological threats.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities our communities face to biological events while also challenging our traditional security assumptions,” said Rep. Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation. “Now more than ever, our nation needs a proactive biological defense strategy that puts the United States at the forefront of international leadership to address the wide range of biological threats, including naturally occurring incidents, medical or research center accidents, or deliberate bioweapon attacks. It’s a national security imperative that we prioritize and better finance biological security to keep pace with these growing threats.”
“The ongoing global pandemic underscores the importance of collaborative scientific research, preparedness, and security across the federal government, and with our allies, for our national and economic security,” said Congressman Langevin (D-RI), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. “In a time when the United States is struggling to respond to the spread of a novel, highly-infectious pathogen, we must ensure the interagency is working together to respond to the current pandemic and advance the collective effort to strengthen biological security across the range of threats. We will continue to work diligently to ensure federal departments on the front lines have the authorities and resources needed to prepare for the emerging threats of both today and tomorrow and are ready and able to act swiftly and decisively in the next crisis.”
Throughout the hearing, members highlighted Congress’ support for State Department and Defense Department programs addressing the full range of biological threats. Members also probed the witnesses on if the State Department and Defense Department had the proper funds, personnel, flexibility, and authorities to address these challenges, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent years, Congress has demonstrated strong support for these programs. In Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations and in the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress reversed a proposed $76M cut to the Biological Threat Reduction Program and increased funding for the program. Chairman Bera led a letter with 88 of his colleagues in support of these programs. In Fiscal Year 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chairman Bera secured a $5M increase to the program after a proposed $15M cut.
Government witnesses testifying at the hearing included Mr. David Lasseter, Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, U.S. Department of Defense; Mr. Vayl Oxford, Director, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, U.S. Department of Defense; Mr. Jonathan Moore, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State; and Mr. Phillip Dolliff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State.
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