Bipartisan bill seeks better federal bioterror responseBy TOM BRUNE
June 11, 2010
WASHINGTON - A bill to improve the federal response to threats of bioterrorism and other uses of weapons of mass destruction was introduced in the House Thursday by bipartisan sponsors who said they want to instill a sense of urgency in the White House and in Congress.
The bill, a broader version of Senate legislation voted out of committee last fall, includes a sweeping set of requirements for a dozen agencies to require better coordination of intelligence and to identify and address biological threats.
"The WMD scenario is the ultimate nightmare scenario for us," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), sponsor of the bill with Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
"Any conventional attack such as you saw on September 11 is bad enough," King said. "But that would be almost insignificant compared to a successful WMD attack."
The prospects of the House bill appeared uncertain. The Homeland Security Committee will mark up the bill next week, though the chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said other House committees also will want to review the bill.
The White House, which is expected to issue its own executive order on the issue soon, has not endorsed the bill, Thompson said. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hasn't said if she'll include the bill in her summer agenda, he added.
The bill is based on recommendations of the report "World at Risk" by the congressionally created commission on WMD threats, King said.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security produced legislation based on that report first, but King and Pascrell said the chairmen of the WMD commission endorse the House bill.
The House bill requires creation of a national intelligence strategy for biological and WMD threats; mandates assessments of biological risk and establishment of biosecurity measures; sets up better funded and coordinated response to bioterror; and charges the secretary of state with addressing bioterrorism with other nations.