Featured in The Hill last week was Tom Daschle – former United States Senate Majority Leader and a panel member of the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense – with an op-ed titled “A potential new role in biodefense for Mike Pence may be his most important yet.”
Daschle opens by asking us to imagine a nightmare scenario one hopes will never happen – a biological attack in our Nation’s Capital killing thousands of Americas – a scenario that was detailed in the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense’s report:
Even though the scenario above is only hypothetical, there is little doubt that something like it will occur … sometime, somewhere. And the sad reality is that we are extraordinarily unprepared.
Our report notes that experts in both the public and private sectors believe that the biological threat is real and growing. And unlike other threats, it can be borne of malicious intent or an act of nature.
Living in a fast-pasted, high-tech society provides us all with great opportunities, but this also includes potential for terrorists who can create biological weapons easier and faster than ever before. Daschle highlights two of the Blue Ribbon panel’s recommendations focusing on national leadership:
Our number one recommendation is to provide the vice president with both the executive and budget authority to provide this critical leadership in all three contexts.
Our second proposal would establish a Biodefense Coordination Council with not only federal participation, but with state, local, tribal and territorial, and private sector involvement — to ensure the most comprehensive organizational mechanism to ensure an effective and integrated national effort.
The Study Panel suggests that only one person’s efforts can succeed in this level of leadership: the Vice President – the second in command with necessary access to the President, his Cabinet and Congress. Granting this official responsibility to the Vice President is the only way to ensure biodefense will always be addressed at the highest level. With a new administration just days away, Daschle looks to Vice President-elect, Mike Pence to be the first:
As we look to the challenges our country faces in the months and years ahead, given the tragic inevitability of either a natural or malicious biological catastrophe, there can be no better role for our next vice president than this.
Read the full op-ed here.