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Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General

Background
In response to the increase in infectious diseases and the threat of bioterrorism, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories perform research with biological agents. To conduct this biological research, the Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) operate multiple laboratory facilities in accordance with various biosafety levels (BSL) established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The BSLs classify the containment level and risk associated with biological agents depending on the threat the agents pose to personnel and the environment. For example, BSL-1 is for low-risk agents; BSL-2 is for medium-risk agents; and BSL-3 is for those agents that cause serious and potentially lethal infections. Department and NNSA sites primarily perform BSL-1 and BSL-2 research; however, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) operates a facility with three BSL-3 laboratories while Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is considering opening a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories. Extensive biological research is performed at LLNL and LANL for other Government agencies through the Department’s Work for Others (WFO) program.

In our report on Coordination of Biological Select Agent Activities at Department of Energy Facilities (DOE/IG-0695, July 2005), we reported that the Department had not developed a plan for construction and operation of its BSL-3 laboratories. Thus, it lacked assurance that capabilities were not being duplicated unnecessarily. As a result of our prior work and Presidential actions to streamline Government and reduce costs, we initiated this audit to determine whether NNSA managed its biosafety laboratories effectively. We limited our review to biosafety laboratories located at LLNL and LANL.

Results of Audit
We found that NNSA was considering a $9.5 million expansion of its BSL-3 and BSL-2 laboratory capabilities at LANL that may not be the most effective use of resources. Specifically, NNSA identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity. Despite the lack of information on the need for additional capacity and current laboratory utilization rates, LANL was also considering building a new BSL-2 facility.

In particular, NNSA proposed development of a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories at LANL. Additionally, LANL is in the early planning stage for constructing a new BSL-2 facility. The estimated cost to open LANL’s new BSL-3 and to construct/open BSL-2 capabilities was about $1.5 million and $8 million, respectively. Given current budget realities, plans to develop additional capabilities without fully demonstrating a need may not be prudent.

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New From the GAO

June 11, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Nuclear Weapons: Ten-Year Budget Estimates for Modernization Omit Key Efforts, and Assumptions and Limitations Are Not Fully Transparent. GAO-14-373, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-373
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664003.pdf

2. Health Care Access: Improved Oversight, Accountability, and Prioritization Can Improve Access for Native American Veterans. GAO-14-489, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-489
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664009.pdf

3. Managing for Results: OMB Should Strengthen Reviews of Cross-Agency Goals. GAO-14-526, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-526
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664021.pdf

Testimonies

1. Biosurveillance: Observations on the Cancellation of BioWatch Gen-3 and Future Considerations for the Program, by Chris Currie, acting director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-267T, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-267T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664000.pdf

2. Afghanistan: Oversight and Accountability of U.S. Assistance, by Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., director, international affairs and trade, before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, House Committee on Foreign Affairs. GAO-14-680T, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-680T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664033.pdf

3. Information Technology: Reform Initiatives Can Help Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-671T, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-671T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664031.pdf

4. VA Health Care: Ongoing and Past Work Identified Access, Oversight, and Data Problems That Hinder Veterans’ Ability to Obtain Timely Outpatient Medical Care, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-679T, June 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-679T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663935.pdf

New From the GAO

May 15, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Export Controls: NASA Management Action and Improved Oversight Needed to Reduce the Risk of Unauthorized Access to Its Technologies. GAO-14-315, April 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-315
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662560.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/662975

2. F-22 Modernization: Cost and Schedule Transparency Is Improved, Further Visibility into Reliability Efforts Is Needed. GAO-14-425, May 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-425
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663197.pdf

3. National Nuclear Security Administration: Agency Report to Congress on Potential Efficiencies Does Not Include Key Information. GAO-14-434, May 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-434
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663220.pdf

4. Biological Defense: DOD Has Strengthened Coordination on Medical Countermeasures but Can Improve Its Process for Threat Prioritization. GAO-14-442, May 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-442
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663213.pdf

5. International Labor Grants: Labor Should Improve Management of Key Award Documentation. GAO-14-493, May 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-493
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663202.pdf

6. Financial Audit: Congressional Award Foundation’s Fiscal Years 2013 and 2012 Financial Statements. GAO-14-540, May 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-540

Testimony

1. VA Health Care: VA Lacks Accurate Information about Outpatient Medical Appointment Wait Times, Including Specialty Care Consults, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-620T, May 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-620T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663194.pdf

New From the GAO

April 1, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Puerto Rico: Information on How Statehood Would Potentially Affect Selected Federal Programs and Revenue Sources. GAO-14-31, March 4.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-31
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661335.pdf

2. Puerto Rico: Informacion Sobre Como la Estatidad Afectaria Determinados Programas y Fuentes de Ingresos Federales. GAO-14-301, March 4.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-301
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661704.pdf

3. National Preparedness: HHS Has Funded Flexible Manufacturing Activities for Medical Countermeasures, but It Is Too Soon to Assess Their Effect. GAO-14-329, March 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-329
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662121.pdf

4. Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. GAO-14-340SP, March 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-340SP
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662183.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/662072

5. Programa Para Mitigar Activos Problemáticos: Es necesario un mayor esfuerzo en el control de préstamos equitativos y en el acceso a los programas de vivienda por parte de personas sin dominio del ingles. GAO-14-457, March 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-457
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662186.pdf

6. American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Economic Indicators Since Minimum Wage Increases Began. GAO-14-381, March 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-381
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662128.pdf

7. Missile Defense: Mixed Progress in Achieving Acquisition Goals and Improving Accountability. GAO-14-351, April 1.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-35
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662199.pdf

8. Afghanistan: Changes to Updated U.S. Civil-Military Strategic Framework Reflect Evolving U.S. Role. GAO-14-438R, April 1.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-438R

Counterterrorism 2014 Calendar

January 9, 2014 Comments off

Counterterrorism 2014 Calendar (PDF)
Source: National Counterterrorism Center

NCTC’s Counterterrorism Calendar provides information on known terrorist groups, individual terrorists, and technical information on topics such as biological and chemical threats.

New From the GAO

December 27, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Social Security Death Data: Additional Action Needed to Address Data Errors and Federal Agency Access. GAO-14-46, November 27.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-46
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659290.pdf

2. National Preparedness: HHS Is Monitoring the Progress of Its Medical Countermeasure Efforts but Has Not Provided Previously Recommended Spending Estimates. GAO-14-90, December 27.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-90
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659950.pdf

Biotechnology and Warfare: Perspectives on the Dual-Use Dilemma

December 20, 2013 Comments off

Biotechnology and Warfare: Perspectives on the Dual-Use Dilemma
Source: Biotechnology Law Report

Shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, several people in New York City and Washington, D.C. became the targets of a biological attack when letters containing anthrax spores were sent to news media offices and the homes of several Democratic Senators.1 These events collectively launched what has come to be known as the war on terror and incited many states to tighten their anti-terrorism legislation and create new defensive, surveillance, and investigative programs. The post-9/11 anthrax attacks launched an explosive reaction by the U.S., while Canada and several other nations also sought to increase their biosafety and biosecurity measures. Moreover, rapid advances in the field of biotechnology, coupled with the rise in terrorism over the past decade, have increased the need for strict vigilance over biological research and application.

The practice of using biological agents as a means of warfare is in fact an ancient practice that can be traced back to 430 B.C.E. Rudimentary methods of biowarfare included throwing jars of poisonous snakes onto enemy ships, dropping cartfuls of diseased corpses into towns to eradicate populations, and even delivering blankets infested with smallpox into enemy camps. These barbaric methods continued up to the end of World War I, when the international community established biowarfare as the most inhumane method of offensive military practice. This consensus resulted in the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which banned the use of poisonous gases in war. This was the start of the status of biowarfare as an increasing concern among states. Since then, biowarfare has continued to be the subject of legislative, political, ethical, economical, and scientific debate, both domestic and international.

This paper examines the issue from a Canadian perspective in terms of its internal regimens and how they relate to practices in the international community. The focus is primarily on the dual-use nature of biotechnology and how this issue is addressed so differently on the domestic and international levels, leading to a chaotic form of arms control. The first section undertakes a rudimentary analysis of biotechnology in relation to warfare and provides a legal framework that guides the subsequent discussion. The second section lays out the current domestic structure in Canada in relation to biotechnology and examines its strengths and weaknesses in regard to its promotion of biosafety, biosecurity, and non-proliferation. The final section examines practices from an international perspective and addresses the challenges, realities, and shortcomings of the current international regimen, as well as proposed solutions, an increasingly salient issue.

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