Budget to fund expanded biosurveillance

President Bush will ask for $274 million in his fiscal 2005 budget for expanded biosurveillance capabilities to strengthen the public health infrastructure and defend against bioterrorism, administration officials said.

In a joint briefing today, Homeland Security Department secretary Tom Ridge and Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson said the initiatives would improve monitoring, warning and response systems.

The president is set to release the budget on Monday.

The Bio-Surveillance Program Initiative will expand existing surveillance programs and integrate those efforts into one comprehensive system, incorporating human health, hospital preparedness, state and local preparedness, vaccine research and procurement, animal health, food and agriculture safety and environmental monitoring.

The budget will earmark $129 million for DHS to upgrade the BioWatch surveillance and warning program and create a system to integrate surveillance data from across the government, Ridge said. BioWatch has been operating in more than 30 cities since last year.

HHS would spend $135 million to improve laboratories, better monitor human health, and enhance food surveillance. The Agriculture Department also would receive $10 million to improve food and animal surveillance operations of the Food Safety and Inspection Services, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

'These investments not only will better prepare the nation for and protect us from a bioterror attack, they also will better prepare us for any public health emergency,' Thompson said. 'We already have seen our investments pay off in CDC's leadership in fighting the SARS outbreak last year and through a coordinated public health response to West Nile Virus.'

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has budgeted $12.9 billion to prepare and protect the nation from a bioterror attack, including $5.2 billion in the 2004 budget, or 15 times the $305 million spent in 2001.

Under the bio-surveillance initiative, DHS and HHS will spend:
  • $11 million for DHS's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division to develop a real-time system for harvesting data on the health of humans, animals, plants and the food supply, and integrate this information with environmental monitoring and intelligence data.

  • $65 million for DHS' Science and Technology division to enhance current environmental monitoring. This investment would be added to the $53 million already included in the budget to fund DHS' biosurveillance efforts. A key component would be the expansion and advancement of the BioWatch program.

  • $130 million to HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for human health surveillance. CDC will improve links between public health laboratories and border health and quarantine stations and strengthen its current surveillance efforts by using automated analysis techniques. In addition, laboratory capabilities will be expanded to provide timely and accurate diagnoses across the country, and HHS will expand the number of public health quarantine stations at U.S. ports of entry from eight to 25.

  • $5 million to the Food and Drug Administration to help coordinate the agency's existing food surveillance capabilities, establish connectivity with public health and environmental officials, and integrate with DHS' threat analysis operations.

  • About the Author

    Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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