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White House Issues U.S. Biothreat Detection Plan

A U.S. biological threat detection plan issued by the White House on Tuesday aims in part to guide the preparation of measures for alerting the public of a possible intentional release of disease materials, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported (see GSN, Nov. 2, 2011).

An accompanying statement by President Obama describes the document as one component of his National Security Strategy, and notes the latest plan's aim to "provide the critical information and ongoing situational awareness that enables better decision-making at all levels."

A new presidential directive calls for development within 120 days of an execution blueprint outlining particular steps and duties for entities linked to U.S. biological threat detection activities, Obama stated. "Guided by this strategy, I am confident that we can meet our shared responsibility and deepen the collaboration we need to keep our country safe and secure," he said.

This week's action plan -- the first of its kind -- seemingly responds to vulnerabilities in related U.S. capabilities noted by a Homeland Security Department inspector general analysis and a pair of Government Accountability Office assessments, according to the CIDRAP article.

A number of initiatives aimed at improving the biological detection framework have unfolded in past years, the plan's authors wrote. Still, they said, a policy targeting a limited number of key areas and refinement of coordination between various activities would bolster the multilevel detection apparatus, which encompasses Cabinet-level agencies and independent organizations.

"In these fiscally challenging times, we seek to leverage distributed capabilities and to add value to independent, individual efforts to protect the health and safety of the nation," the document says.

The blueprint identifies as overarching aims the exploitation of present capacities; the adoption of a plan to cover the entire country; increasing worth for contributors without significantly increasing demands placed on them; and sustaining an international focus.

Four key areas -- overseeing areas of concern and grasping developments, spotting and incorporating important data, updating policy-makers and predicting effects -- would support the creation of a coordinated biological detection framework capable of aiding leaders and preventing deaths, according to the paper.

Critical to success in those areas are four specific mechanisms, one of which is to unite various response means through arrangements such as multijurisdictional deals on exchanging medical data, according to the document. Public Internet communications platforms could also bolster the effectiveness of oversight programs, it suggests.

A second key mechanism is to "build capacity," in part by establishing additional procedures at treatment sites for spotting a number of biological agents, according to the paper.

In addition, the blueprint calls for supporting novel concepts in areas such as threat prediction. Fourth, it seeks more robust alliances suited to increase contributors' mutual understanding of goals and to isolate methods for maximizing advantages from existing and future collaborations (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy release, Aug. 2).

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