Congress Passes Legislation Authorizing Critical Biodefense Programs

Press Release | Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense | June 5, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 5, 2019) - The House yesterday passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act. The bill reauthorizes existing statute governing public health efforts at the Department of Health and Human Services. Additions made by the bill - some of which were recommended by the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense - address biodetection, hospital preparedness, medical countermeasures and response. Many of these programs will enable HHS to better defend the nation against biological threats. Both chambers of Congress have passed the bill, and it will now go to President Trump for signature.

"Naturally occurring diseases and biological weapons continue to endanger our nation," said Governor Tom Ridge, Panel Co-Chair. "The Panel is pleased to see that Congress addressed 15 of our recommendations in this legislation, which will help the nation better prepare for, detect, respond to, and recover from large-scale outbreaks, bioterrorism or other biological events."

"The passage of this broad legislation builds on important progress Congress has been making in addressing concerns detailed in our initial Blueprint," added Panel Co-Chair, former Senator Joe Lieberman. "Along with the inclusion of three Panel recommendations in last year's Farm Bill, Congress is demonstrating just how seriously it takes the biological threat and the recommendations that could help the public if a large-scale outbreak occurs."

Among other important directives, the bill directs HHS to:

  • Establish guidelines (with a corresponding pilot project) for regional systems of hospitals and health care facilities, as addressed in Recommendation 21 from the Panel's 2015 National Blueprint for Biodefense;
  • Develop a national strategy to address cyber threats to public health security, as addressed in Recommendation 24 from the Panel's National Blueprint for Biodefense;
  • Work with the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security to report on biological detection technology and information sharing, as addressed in Recommendation 31 from the Panel's National Blueprint for Biodefense;
  • Streamline and further promote the use of flexible contracting authorities by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, as addressed in Recommendation 29 from the Panel's National Blueprint for Biodefense; and
  • Update the Public Health Emergency Fund by clarifying the categories of activities that can be supported by the Fund, as recommended in the Panel's 2018 Holding the Line on Biodefense report.

The Panel recognizes the leadership of Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Bob Casey (D-PA) who championed the bill in the Senate, along with Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) - of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's (E&C) Subcommittee on Health - who led efforts in the House. The Panel also commends leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and other leaders of the House E&C's Subcommittee on Health, Ranking Member Michael Burgess (R-TX) and former Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX).

About the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense was established in 2014 to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the state of U.S. biodefense efforts, and to issue recommendations to foster change. The Panel's 2015 report, A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts, identified capability gaps and recommended changes to U.S. policy and law to strengthen national biodefense while optimizing resource investments. Subsequent Panel publications have addressed critical needs for agricultural defense, biodefense budgeting and State, Local, Tribal and Territorial governments. In September 2018, the White House released the National Biodefense Strategy, a top recommendation from the Blueprint. The Panel continues to assess biodefense challenges and to urge reform. Former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor Tom Ridge co-chair the Panel, and are joined by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Representative Jim Greenwood, former Homeland Security Advisor Ken Wainstein, and former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco. Hudson Institute is the Panel's fiscal sponsor.