More spending proposed for bioterror initiatives

Of the $32.3 billion in IT funds the Bush administration is seeking for civilian agencies for fiscal 2005, a large chunk would go to projects to fight bioterrorism.

These IT-related initiatives are under the aegis of the Health and Human Services and Agriculture departments with support from the Homeland Security Department.

Based on the proposal President Bush sent to Congress today, HHS and USDA would receive $370 million, three times this year's funding, to thwart deliberate acts of contamination and introduction of disease. Plus, the administration wants $70 million in new funding to establish a nationwide network of laboratories that can rapidly analyze potentially contaminated food and use IT systems to share information among the labs and government agencies.

Total spending for biosurveillance would grow to $118 million, with $47 million earmarked for Project BioWatch, a sensor network throughout the country to detect dangerous biological and chemical agents.

Health, food and agriculture organizations, along with BioWatch, will feed their data into a unified and integrated system. 'All of this collaboration serves the ultimate goal of decreasing the gap between the moment an event actually occurs and the time when appropriate federal, state and local response protocols are implemented,' the president noted in his budget.

The biosurveillance initiative would provide early indications that an attack has occurred and improve the government's ability to determine an attack's size and scope.

The budget also seeks $130 million for HHS to:

  • Improve monitoring of public health data and spot problems emerging in the general population. For example, synthesizing information from nurse call lines, over-the-counter drug sales and selected lab tests could alert health organizations to an attack before a large number of cases arrive in emergency rooms.

  • Fund proposals to improve the capacity of the nation's laboratory network to diagnose biological and chemical samples and to advance linkages between public health and commercial labs.

  • Expanding from eight to 25 the number of border health and quarantine stations at ports of entry to enhance the government's ability to detect and deal with cases of people entering the country with infectious diseases.

  • About the Author

    Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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