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Scientists Urge DHS to Improve Bioterrorism Risk Assessment

Gregory S. Parnell, Luciana L. Borio, Gerald G. Brown, David Banks, Alyson G. Wilson
Date posted:
December 01, 2008
Publication type:

Biosecur Bioterror 2008;6(4):353-356

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
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Full article on publisher's site: PDF


In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) completed its first Bioterrorism Risk Assessment (BTRA), intended to be the foundation for DHS’s subsequent biennial risk assessments mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 10 (HSPD-10). At the request of DHS, the National Research Council established the Committee on Methodological Improvements to the Department of Homeland Security’s Biological Agent Risk Analysis to provide an independent, scientific peer review of the BTRA. The Committee found a number of shortcomings in the BTRA, including a failure to consider terrorists as intelligent adversaries in their models, unnecessary complexity in threat and consequence modeling and simulations, and a lack of focus on risk management. The Committee unanimously concluded that an improved BTRA is needed to provide a more credible foundation for risk-informed decision making.

“The threat posed by biological agents employed in a terrorist attack on the United States is arguably the most important homeland security challenge of our era. Whether natural pathogens are cultured or new variants are bioengineered, the consequence of a terrorist-induced pandemic could be millions of casualties—far more than we would expect from nuclear terrorism, chemical attacks, or conventional attacks on the infrastructure of the United States such as the attacks of September 11, 2001. Even if there were fewer casualties, additional second-order consequences (including psychological, social, and economic effects) would dramatically compound the effects. Bioengineering is no longer the exclusive purview of state sponsors of terrorism; this technology is now available to small terrorist groups and even to deranged individuals.”

—Department of Homeland Security’s Biological Threat Risk Assessment:
A Call for Change, National Research Council, 2008

Full article on publisher's site: PDF



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