Biodefense Research Supporting the DoD: A New Strategic Vision
Authored by Colonel Coleen K. Martinez.
The author examines the productivity of the Department of Defense’s biodefense research program over the course of more than 35 years, coupled with changes in the global research environment since the events of September 11, 2001. Where the deployment of a biologic agent of mass destruction is largely an unpredictable risk, the outcome certainly could be catastrophic for an unprotected population. An urgent moral imperative is cast upon the federal government, then, to objectively assess the application and management of its biodefense research resources.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has had a unique mission in biological defense research over the past 4 decades. Throughout this history, the military biological disease threats were relatively straightforward, there was little urgency linked to successful product fielding, there was no mechanism by which to gain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) product licensure, and there was little competition for mission or funds. In the post-September 11, 2001 (9/11) environment, however, the scope of potential threats has increased immeasurably, relative funding for the DoD has decreased, urgency to field solutions has skyrocketed, the FDA has provided a way forward to product licensure, and active non-DoD players in this arena have grown exponentially, aligning with newly designated, congressionally mandated funding sources. The old paradigms that governed the DoD research program structure and mission are no longer viable in this changing environment. This monograph examines the current organization of the DoD biodefense research program in light of the changing national biodefense landscape and industry best practices, and argues that all aspects of the DoD biodefense program should be consolidated with all other federal biodefense resources, including those within the National Institutes of Health, to create a single, focused, and productive program. This new agency, subordinate to the Department of Health and Human Services, will be positioned and equipped to provide medical solutions to the warfighter on the battlefield, as well as to U.S. citizens.
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