Tech bill to bypass bureaucracy
- By Dibya Sarkar
- May 02, 2002
Science and Technology Emergency Mobilization Act
Addressing biotechnology industry officials at a first-of-its-kind meeting
on homeland security, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pledged that government would
work to better use their companies' tools and expertise in the war against
terrorism through recently proposed legislation.
Last month, Wyden and co-sponsor
Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) introduced a bill establishing a volunteer high-tech
corps that could be mobilized quickly in case of a terrorist attack or other
Speaking to a group of about 300 attendees April 30, Wyden said a biotechnology
conference on homeland security several years ago would have been "fairly
sedate, and suffice it to say, you wouldn't have a wall-to-wall packed gathering
that we have today."
"I think that reflects what is really going on in this country, and
that is a nationwide mobilization to deal with terrorism with those of you
in technology on the front lines with respect to this overall effort," he
said. "And it seems to me the government at a minimum has got to be a better
partner as we play this critical role in the days ahead."
Instead of companies going through a "bureaucratic marathon" and spending
months just waiting to get their technologies "to the top of somebody's
inbox," Wyden said his bill would allow biotechnology companies to bring
new products to a central clearinghouse as well as enable federal agencies
to fill a specific need.
"I think it is just absolutely bizarre even by Beltway standards to
send biotechnology entrepreneurs out traipsing all over government trying
to find out in this sort of strewn-across-Washington-type approach where
they ought to go in order to bring sensible path-breaking ideas," he said.
The bill also would create a test bed to "promptly and thoroughly and
objectively" evaluate ideas at the federal level, he said, adding that investment
in basic research and science also needs to be beefed up.
He also said the leadership vacancies in the National Institutes of
Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention need to be filled.
"My friends, it is very, very hard to win a war when you have virtually
no generals on deck," Wyden said. "If we're going to spend the billions
and billions of dollars that are going to be allocated for this war against
terrorism, particularly bioterrorism, I think you got to have the key people
in place at these agencies."
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (www.bio.org),
the industry's trade group, organized the one-day conference in Arlington,
Va., which brought together industry representatives with officials from
the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services. The conference
mostly centered on the role of federal agencies and their procurement practices.
"While the DOD had been able to integrate chemistry and physics and
engineering disciplines into the defense science base, they had not been
able to integrate biology, particularly biotechnology, recognizing that
the U.S. biotech industry is by far the largest and most advanced in development
in the world and therefore could convey a strategic advantage," said Carl
Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, regarding
the conference's genesis.