WH Responds to WMD Report

In a new report, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction says the United States is not prepared for a biological terror attack. To read the report, click here.

The White House has responded strongly -- insisting great progress has been made.

A Senior Administration official tells Fox News that, "the Administration does not agree with the WMD Commission report card. We have accomplished a great deal in just one year to better protect the American people from biological threats."

 The Report Card minimizes and avoids at least one high priority recommendation from the Commission's 2008 report where the Administration has done particularly well. For instance, In 2008, the Commission highlighted the urgent need for a comprehensive approach towards preventing biological weapons proliferation and terrorism as a key priority.

The President's National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats provides just such a framework; however, the Commission chose not to reflect the fact that the Administration fully addressed this gap in its report card (they simply comment on the strategy as part of one of their secondary recommendations).   Read more here.

From White House Spokesman Nick Shapiro:

The Obama Administration rolled out a national strategy for countering bio threats in November and has taken significant steps to enhance the nation’s capabilities for rapid response to prevent biological attacks from inflicting mass casualties. These steps include efforts in detection and diagnosis, medical countermeasure development, response and recovery.

Since coming to office the Obama Administration has undertaken a comprehensive review of our national preparedness policy, which includes an evaluation of how to best integrate planning at all levels of government and build the key capabilities that are needed, with an initial focus on capabilities for preventing and responding to the highest consequence events, including attacks using improvised nuclear devices or high-consequence biological weapons, catastrophic natural disasters or pandemics.

On December 30, 2009, the President signed an Executive Order (EO) to establish a Federal capability to rapidly provide medical countermeasures to supplement state and local response in the event of a large-scale biological attack. The rapid delivery of effective medical countermeasures to an affected population is vital to save lives. This capability takes advantage of the U.S. Postal Service’s existing network and ability to deliver to every American household, which the Postal Service does every day. In three large city demonstration exercises, the Postal plan was highly effective in rapidly delivering surrogate antibiotics to a large segment of the population.

Despite years of effort and millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, the U.S. Government’s approach to the development and procurement of medical “countermeasures” against emerging pandemics, certain endemic diseases, and biological weapons and other WMD threats has not produced the results we demand. Our results reflect in part the state of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. As a nation, we are spending more time and money in research and development of pharmaceuticals, but fewer licensed products are emerging from the pipeline.

Recognizing this need, tomorrow during the State of the Union, the President will launch an initiative aimed at responding faster and more effectively to public health threats, including bio-terrorism.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took an important first step on December 1, 2009 when she announced a review of medical countermeasure development efforts.

Pursuant to this review, President Obama will call to action key U.S. Government leaders to re-design our medical countermeasure enterprise to protect Americans and advance global health efforts. The goal is a national capability for the rapid, reliable, and affordable production of an array of medical countermeasures against public health threats.

Prior government efforts have been largely unable to counter market forces driving private industry toward more profitable products outside of key public health requirements. We will pursue a business model that leverages market forces and reduces risk to attract pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry collaboration with the U.S Government.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.