This iconic line from a Presidential debate in 1980 is what came to mind when I learned of yet another assault, this time from the House of Representatives, on the BioShield Strategic Reserve Fund—the fourth attempted raid in 14 months.
The BioShield SRF was established by a unanimous consent of Congress to ensure funds would be available to purchase critically important vaccines and therapeutics required to protect Americans from both bioterrorism and naturally-occurring diseases. This was designed to be an iron-clad pledge by the US government to the private sector—if you take the financial risks to produce these medical countermeasures, we guarantee the money will be available for the government to purchase them.
So what might the private sector be thinking today? Perhaps …“Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
What is it that a majority of the House of Representatives don’t seem to understand?
• The threat—I guess that means they don’t read or believe what is produced by the intelligence community, DHS products such as the Population Threat Assessment, or the WORLD AT RISK report by the WMD Commission in December 2008.
• America’s lack of preparedness to respond to bioterrorism—I guess that means they didn’t read the WMD Commission’s Report Card in January 2010. I hope they read the next bi-partisan report (completely separate from the WMD Commission) that will come out in September. Hint: The grade is not going up. (Is there a grade below an “F”?)
• The purpose of the SRF—I guess that means they don’t understand that Congress unanimously approved this program as a critical element of national security.
• The trust we need to build with the private sector—if a company does develop a new vaccine or therapeutic DHS and HHS say we need, there must be money to procure it. This partnership cannot exist in the absence of trust.
I need to go back and look at the BioShield legislation. Perhaps I missed the part that said these funds would be available “as long as the grass and water flows”. (This was the escape clause Congress included in the treaties with native Americans in the 19th century.)
The only good news in this story is that all is not lost…yet. The U.S. Senate still has the opportunity to save BioShield. The last three assaults were successfully repelled. Hopefully, the Senate will save the day, but if they do not, it will be a serious blow to biosecurity in America…and to the security of your family.