Secrecy News

Project Bioshield Loses Momentum

Project Bioshield, a program that was created by the Bush Administration in 2004 to foster development of new drugs to respond to a potential bioterrorism attack, now faces significant budget cuts from Congress with the acquiescence of the Obama Administration.

Supporters of the program argue that the reductions to Project Bioshield are shortsighted and dangerously unwise.  Critics say the Project is a boondoggle that has produced little of value.

The budget cut is “an extremely negative development in our overall efforts to prepare not only for bioterrorism but for other biological events from nature,” former Sen. Bob Graham told the Los Angeles Times.  (“Bioterrorism experts condemn a move to cut reserve money” by Ken Dilanian, July 13.)

But Project Bioshield reflects a mistaken prioritization of an extreme scenario, said George Smith of GlobalSecurity.org, who added that even within the domain of pharmaceuticals, the money involved would be better spent elsewhere.  “The country needs more antibiotics to fight infectious bacterial diseases– magnitudes more than it needs anything BioShield could theoretically furnish,” he said.

A newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service says the cuts to Project Bioshield are consistent with its actual expenditures, which have been lower than originally anticipated, and “could be interpreted as Congress and the President adjusting the amount of funds available so that they track more closely with the actual ability of HHS to obligate them.”  See “Project Bioshield: Authorities, Appropriations, Acquisitions, and Issues for Congress,” July 7, 2010.