alexa A decade of countering bioterrorism: incremental progress, fundamental failings.
General Science

General Science

Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense

Author(s): Danzig R

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Abstract The fear and disruption caused by the 2001 anthrax attacks understandably led Americans to seek enhanced biodefenses. However, the path followed since those attacks has left the country inadequately prepared to face further risks from biological attacks. Why has security against these threats been only partially achieved? This article suggests that our responses over the past decade can be sorted into 4 levels in order of increasing difficulty. First, we rapidly appropriated funds, augmented personnel, and mandated reorganization of agencies. Though not easy to accomplish, these steps were easily conceptualized and, whatever their imperfections, could rather assuredly be achieved. A second level was more demanding, but also quite achievable. It involved the amplification of ongoing efforts. These efforts sometimes suffered as they scaled up, but, though they were qualified by delays and uncertainties, we can point to real achievements at this level. A third level was more difficult: It required evolving new strategies to deal with this largely unprecedented problem. In this regard, we have so far had only glimmers of possibility. At a fourth level, our performance and our prospects are worse still. At this level, our problems stem from resistances inherent in our country's cultural and political framework. This article identifies some of these problems and suggests, regrettably, that they are not likely to be resolved until change is catalyzed by further, and more dramatically traumatic, attacks or natural disasters. If this situational assessment is correct, what remedial strategies should we pursue? The article distinguishes 3 strategic approaches: an evolutionary one in which the U.S. continues advancing along its present path; a radical approach that attempts to address the fourth-level issues; and a third approach that prepares for punctuated evolution. This third approach accepts the improbability of level 4 change either by gradual evolution or by radical argument, but asserts that it is possible to lay the conceptual groundwork now for the radical changes that will be possible, even demanded, after a catastrophic incident. This approach, neglected at present, would be a valuable addition to our present efforts. This article was published in Biosecur Bioterror and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense

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