Analysts Call for Big Boost to Biodefense Budgets

By Jon Harper


The Pentagon’s annual budget for biodefense should be increased to $10 billion, with another $10 billion going to the Department of Health and Human Services, some analysts are recommending.

A new report by the Council on Strategic Risks’ Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, “Key U.S. Initiatives for Addressing Biological Threats Part 1: Bolstering the Chemical and Biological Defense Program,” was released as the United States and the world continue to deal with the devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pentagon program, also known as CBDP, has had past successes in developing therapeutics and vaccines to combat deadly diseases, the study noted.

There needs to be “a large-scale government effort to meet biological threats and be able to detect and respond faster to the next outbreak,” it said. “The “CBDP should play a central role, including via support for versatile technologies that are essential for addressing biological weapons threats, and helpful in both dealing with lab accidents and fighting emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19. This will take reversing the erosion of the CBDP’s budget that has occurred over the last decade.”

The program’s activities would include: funding advances against bio threats and driving their development, shepherding them through testing and evaluation to help them cross the programmatic “Valley of Death” that lies between development and fielding, and working with allies and partners to improve and deploy technologies.

“The process of maximizing CBDP’s contributions to countering biological threats should begin by roughly doubling CBDP’s funding to at least $2 billion in the next year, to be increased to the $6.5 billion to $7 billion annual budget range in the following years,” said the report, which was released in April.

It also called for additional federal funding for other programs.

“The U.S. government should aim to invest $10 billion annually in DoD to address infectious disease threats, plus $10 billion annually in the Department of Health and Human Services, sustained over 10 years,” the report said.

Key investment areas should include nucleic-acid based therapeutics, a new approach that relies on gene encoding similar to the most efficacious COVID-19 vaccines, and early-detection technology that can be forward deployed in the field and at clinics to identify pathogens by reading their genetic material, the study recommended.

“These investments should be part of a whole-of-government surge to never again allow the nation to experience the mass effects the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought,” it said.

Topics: Research and Development, Budget

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