US Panel Highlights Importance of International Cooperation and Assistance for Biodefense Programs
Ambassador Laura Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State Tom Countryman, Deputy Under Secretary of DHS Gerstein and HHS Science Advisor George Korch discussed the whole of government approach to biodefense and emergency preparedness.
On December 8, 2011, the U.S. Delegation to the 7th Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Review Conference (BWC RevCon) hosted a side event on the United States Biodefense Program open to all conference participants. After presentations from the four senior U.S. government policy-makers, the panel answered questions from the audience of more than 100 conference delegates, industry and nongovernmental organization representatives, and journalists.
- Ambassador Laura Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and Special Representative for Biological Weapons Convention Issues
- Thomas M. Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation
- Daniel Gerstein, Deputy Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and
- George Korch, Senior Science Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness and Response
Ambassador Kennedy welcomed the audience and opened the discussion by emphasizing “the essential nature of international cooperation and assistance and the importance of sharing, whether it is material, best practices, or knowledge.”
Assistant Secretary Countryman then outlined the key premises that underlie the U.S approach to addressing the spectrum of a potential bio attack and the comprehensive U.S. approach: threat awareness; prevention and protection; surveillance and detection; and response and recovery. Assistant Secretary Countryman went on to describe the U.S. system as multi-disciplinary and multi-agency at the federal, state and local levels, in consultation with community actors and private industry.
In his presentation focused on the development of medical countermeasures, Dr. Korch described how the U.S. Biodefense program is designed to respond to the “major public health emergencies which arise from bioterrorism, chemical terrorism, use of nuclear or radiological devices, emerging or pandemic diseases, and finally those that are characterized as the unknown threats.” Dr. Korch emphasized that the United States engages at every step from basic scientific research, to product development, to distribution and stockpiling at home and abroad.
“All aspects of our inter-agency are working together in order to have a comprehensive biodefense program,” said Deputy Under Secretary Gerstein, adding that the United States’ program emphasizes “mechanisms to ensure that we are in compliance with the letter and the spirit of the BWC.”
The three week review conference opened on December 5 and Secretary Clinton delivered the U.S. national statement on December 7.
Click here to view Deputy Under Secretary Gerstein’s powerpoint presentation.
Click here to view Dr. Korch’s powerpoint presentation.
Click here to view U.S. Mission Geneva’s photos from the events.