U.S. fails bioterrorism report card
The infectious disease, anthrax, in a laboratory environment.
October 12th, 2011
09:49 AM ET

U.S. fails bioterrorism report card

By CNN's Jim Barnett

The United States remains largely unprepared for a large-scale bioterrorism attack or deadly disease outbreak, according to the WMD Terrorism Research Center.

The finding are in a report card released Wednesday, which gave the country 15 failing grades in categories ranging from detection to medical countermeasures.

The report card gave 15 F's,15 D's and no A's in its assessment of current bio-defense capabilities in the United States.

The bipartisan center, headed by former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, and former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Missouri, did find improvements since the 9-11 2001 attacks, but its analysis suggests the nation's readiness to respond to various levels of biological disasters remains a work in progress.

In a news release accompanying the report card, the Center said, "In the past decade the United States government has spent more than $65 billion on bio-defense, and yet it has done so without an end-to-end, strategic assessment of the nation's bio-response capabilities."

The bio-response report card gave the United States failing grades when it came to detection, medical countermeasures, dispensing, medical management and environmental clean-up in a contagious large scale and global crisis.

"America does not yet have adequate bio-response capability to meet fundamental expectations during a large-scale biological event," said Graham.

However, the report card suggests the country's ability to detect a small-scale attack and effectively communicate about it is improving. The Center gave the United States largely B's and C's in the category of communication.

One of the big concerns facing the United States is how quickly the country might react if terrorists launched an attack with biological weapons. "I think they'd have a psychological effect and potentially a huge effect in terms of human life," said Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, in a recent CNN interview.

Federal funding for public health departments dropped 15 percent in the last year and despite improved collaboration, hospitals still have limited capability to ramp up personnel and beds.

"Most major hospitals in this country are operating at 80, 90, 95 percent capacity on any given day, and I would think they would be sorely challenged to deal with hundreds, much less thousands or tens of thousands of casualties. And a circus tent in a parking lot is not going to make up the difference," said Dr. Arthur Kellerman with the RAND Corporation.

The report points out "advances in biotechnology have now enabled a small team of individuals with college-level training to create biological weapons."

The WMD Center recommends the United States needs to focus on improving response capabilities. The report card cites among its priorities leadership that sets clear priorities, mobilizing response planning and investment in science.

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  7. liloleme

    Let's shout it from the rooftops so our enemies can see our weak spots and head straight for them! Geez!

    October 13, 2011 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • Sam from NY

      This really is not something new to anyone who has any experience in lab work. I am more worried about rogue scientists cooking up something funny in their basement in their grand delusional dream of apocalypse.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Reply
  8. Brad

    We'll never be prepared. What country could be prepared for bio-terrorism? By the time we know what's going on, millions of people could be exposed. No country can handle that level of medical triage.

    October 13, 2011 at 8:43 am | Reply
  9. cpc65


    October 13, 2011 at 7:31 am | Reply
  10. jayman419

    I mean, they only spent $65 billion. What kind of results are you expecting when you just throw chump change at the problem? Sheesh.

    October 13, 2011 at 7:27 am | Reply
  11. Nick

    Whoever did that streak on the BA plate really screwed up. Most of the people in my senior undergrad microbio lab class can streak better than that >.<

    October 13, 2011 at 1:47 am | Reply
    • kyle

      Those look like single cell colonies in the center of the plate, meaning this is a good streak.

      October 13, 2011 at 11:45 am | Reply
      • Sam from NY

        I wouldn't call just a few single cell colonies a good streak.

        October 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  12. kake79

    Let me guess. These guys are JUST the people to contract with the government to show us how we should prepare for a bio-attack.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Reply
  13. rob83

    Articles like this seem more like a subliminal warning than anything else.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Reply
  14. Robert

    My question is- who the heck even passes these 'tests'? show me a country that meets or surpasses these standards? what are we comparing to? What are we measuring? once we can understand that maybe these tests might mean something.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  15. KeithTexas

    The super secret terrorism folks are trying to find reasons to keep their jobs. We need some leaders with balls to disassemble the horrible collection of secret security agencies created since 9/11

    October 12, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Reply
  16. Ashley

    What else is new, our country doesn’t seem to be prepared for anything.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  17. josh

    this is retarted.......the gov. really needs to put the money where it counts

    October 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Reply
  18. someone

    Question: Why would they use bioterrorism on us if it would COME BACK AND AFFECT THEM? Would their goal be to extinct the human race?

    October 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • JiM in Mesa

      Who are "they". Where are "they"? Terrorists don't wear uniforms, don't have national allegiances. The people behind 9-11 were a small group that moved from country to country. We got bogged down in two places for a decade now while they moved to the hills and then Africa. How do you propose to "return fire" to terrorist attackers?

      October 13, 2011 at 9:13 am | Reply
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  19. Some Random Guy

    I'd like to see this group tackle the problem of how to keep health care costs from going up even more while building our capacity for bio-defense. I feel this is a case of over-simplifying an issue.

    October 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  20. driranek

    Bioterrorism is nothing compared to the danger of multiple-resistant bacteria created by giving antibiotics to cattle.

    October 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • Scientist

      Thank you for pointing out a much more realistic problem in this country. Forget the terrorists, we'll bring about our own doom if we keep using antibiotics like they're a never-ending supply of magic voodoo that can be abused till the end of time. Brilliant plan to use antibiotics for animals that aren't even sick.

      October 12, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Reply
    • kake79

      ^ THIS!

      October 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Reply
  21. Ness1

    The fear machine is at it again!

    October 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • Michael

      Yep – more fear and propaganda. Scare the heck out of the public so the government can justify spending money we don't have on additional security resources that try to lure the public into a false sense of security. Nobody is ready for bio-terrorism.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Reply
      • JiM in Mesa

        Agreed that no one is ready to protect themselves. The question is – is anyone ready to do the attacking? That's both easier and cheaper. Responders don't set the time table, attackers do.

        October 13, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • denim


      October 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  22. Sigh

    Gotta love these publically released reports with giant neon arrows saying "Here is a viable terrorism strategy." Morons.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  23. David S

    We fail on EMP weapon preparedness, too. Read "One Second After" ... a work of fiction, but very realistic.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  24. Jon

    Whatever. Just like Bush trying to find an excuse to invade Iraq with WMD. Now, what? Iran? Giddety! NO!

    October 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply
    • Sam from NY

      I really hope Obama doesn't get bullies into another war....

      October 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  25. Sam

    But look at it this way! Diplomats and flunkies for oppressive, woman-hating, america-bombing regimes like the Saudi government are safe on our soil! So our war on terror money was plainly spent on all the right things!

    October 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  26. Jim

    Then why in the @#$% do you report this then? Isn't that like a nude woman running around a bunch of prison convicts who have not seen a woman for years? Don't you think that isn't that asking for somethig bad to happen? Between Hollywood and CNN they give the terrorists fodder for years on how to f with the USA.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • patrick k

      its true tho why do we advertise are weeknesses

      October 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Reply
    • JiM in Mesa

      Don't you think they know already? It's just regular citizens who are kept in the dark. No sense scaring the sheeple. If something does happen, government as another great crisis to grab some liberties.

      October 13, 2011 at 8:59 am | Reply

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