Twenty years after letters laced with anthrax began arriving in the Halls of Congress, our nation is still not prepared to adequately detect and respond to biological threats. This is according to Ridge Policy Group partner, Mark Holman, as he described in a recent opinion editorial. Ridge Policy Group, a government affairs firm in Washington, DC, and Harrisburg, helps support clients today on national security and public health goals within the federal government.
RPG Partner Holman was Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and worked directly on the response to the anthrax attacks. Today, he uses this experience to help support our partners in this space. This includes the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, University City Science Center, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and others. Through our work, we support our United States preparedness and response to both naturally occurring and manmade biological agents.
As Holman said, “Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security. And while DHS continues to evolve, from my vantage point, I believe Americans are much better protected than they were prior to 9/11. However, with regard to protecting our public health during a crisis, we remain critically unprepared in so many ways.”
We are grateful that the House version of the reconciliation package includes funding for pandemic preparedness and response. We support the $10 billion for Hospital Infrastructure with a priority to applicants whose projects will include, by design, public health emergency preparedness. We’ve long advocated for more funding for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority under the US Department of Health and Human Services. We also support recent activity by the Administration to develop an Apollo-like program for biodefense.
Still, as Holman points out, “This week, the Bipartisan Commission on biodefense is expected to release a new report that finds 20 years after the deadly anthrax attacks, our federal government still does not have a national biodetection system that works. BioWatch technology — federally developed and supported detectors placed in 30 large cities across the nation that are supposed to quickly identify a biological agent in the air — still do not work reliably.”
At the Ridge Policy Group, we are committed to protecting the American people from future biological events. We wish that some of the actions we’ve recommended on behalf of clients would have been implemented ahead of COVID-19. We are grateful to have Holman’s expertise to support this.
As he so aptly said, “while we have made progress since the 2001 anthrax attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic, the recognition that biodefense is primary to our national security is not self-evident. Now is clearly the time to take the painful lessons of the past and invest boldly in solutions for future generations.”
This post was written for Ridge Policy Group, a top government affairs firm, using comments from Holman’s opinion editorial published in GoErie.