Rep. James Langevin (D, R.I.), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity and Science and Technology, and Rep. Mike McCaul (R, Tex.), ranking member of the subcommittee, joined together with full Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D, Miss.) and Ranking Member Peter King (R, N.Y.) to introduce H.R. 1089.
The BioShield Program was created to develop and procure medical countermeasures against dangerous chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for determining threats posed to the United States by these agents, and for taking specific steps to protect the nation's citizens from these threats.
"While I fully support the mission of BioShield, the program has encountered several problems since it was enacted nearly three years ago," said Langevin. "Rather than examining each threat individually, we should be looking for ways to properly group these threats together, so we can develop appropriate countermeasures to combat multiple threats."
He said he hopes thes legislation will promote a more strategic use of national resources when procuring medical countermeasures "and will ultimately lead to a safer and better-prepared public health infrastructure."
McCaul noted that while effective medical countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents are a critical part of the nation's defense against terrorism, "very few exist. This legislation will substantially expedite DHS' material threat assessments and determinations and help bring countermeasures to the public faster and more effectively, enhancing our nation's ability to defend against and respond to the growing biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear threats."
Thompson noted that the legislation requires the secretary of Homeland Security to complete threat assessments for all high-risk agents by the end of 2007.
"This bill will accelerate the acquisition of medical countermeasures, allowing us to better protect our first responders, healthcare workers and citizens nationwide," said King.