Report: Feds lack bioterror training

Homeland Insecurity: Building the Expertise to Defend America from Bioterrorism

The government's ability to deal with a bioterrorism attack is insufficient because the federal workforce does not include enough trained experts to handle the threats of chemical, biological or germ warfare, a report issued July 7 says.

The report, "Homeland Insecurity: Building the Expertise to Defend America from Bioterrorism" by the Partnership for Public Service, warned that the government must work harder to attract a talented workforce that can deal with natural outbreaks and terrorist acts.

"We are steadily losing the experts we have — one in every two will be eligible to retire over the next five years," the report said. "Limitations on pay, poor hiring procedures and unattractive work settings limit our ability to hire replacements."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal officials have had to deal with a panacea of threatening incidents — from the natural outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome to the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people.

"Our national security requires a better effort to strengthen this aspect of our federal service," said the report, led by former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig.

Among its recommendations:

n Identify the size of a biodefense corps needed to deal with bioterrorist threats.

n Recruit experts in biodefense.

n Invest in biodefense education.

"In response to the nuclear threats of World War II and the Cold War, we hired and cultivated the best minds in physics for the Manhattan Project," the report said. "So too policymakers must commit to developing and attracting the best minds in medicine and biology to ensure our nation's defense against bio terrorism."

The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing public service and recruiting talented people into the federal workforce.

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