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​​​​Frequently Asked Questions: National Biodefense Strategy

In 2009, the Obama administration released the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats that addressed deliberate use of biological weapons. Over time, progress was made in guiding the nation in an all-hazards approach to preventing, responding to, and recovering from threats including deliberate acts, natural disasters and other man-made incidents. In light of the progress that has been made as well as the changing threat landscape, it is time to refocus and adjust our biodefense programs and priorities.

In the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017, Congress requested the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture to jointly develop and execute a comprehensive National Biodefense Strategy. The National Biodefense Strategy will provide a strategic context for biodefense activities across the federal government.

Together with today’s National Security Presidential Memorandum, the National Biodefense Strategy is a unique mechanism for bringing the interagency together to coordinate a wide range of biodefense activities. The presidential memorandum lays out a process for linking our biodefense capabilities to the annual budget process, to ensure that we make progress in addressing these challenges.​

Both the National Security Strategy and the National Biodefense Strategy aim to protect the American homeland and the American people. The current National Security Strategy, released in December 2017, identifies four vital national interests or pillars:

  1. Protect the homeland, the American people, and American way of life
  2. Promote American prosperity
  3. Preserve peace through strength
  4. Advance American influence

In addition to protecting our national interests, the National Security Strategy addresses the challenges that stand in the way, including biothreats and pandemics.

The National Biodefense Strategy focuses specifically on biodefense, as a small part of the broader National Security Strategy. The goals and objectives of the National Biodefense Strategy are in alignment with and support the larger National Security Strategy.

Each of these priorities in the National Security Strategy is incorporated into the National Biodefense Strategy.

  • Detect and contain biothreats at their source
    • The United States is dedicated to working with international partners in early detection to prevent the spread of disease and ensure laboratories are well prepared in handling dangerous pathogens.
  • Support biomedical innovation
    • The National Security Strategy supports the strengthening of the intellectual property system that is foundation of the biomedical industry.
  • Improve emergency response
    • We will stren​gthen our emergency response and unified coordination systems to rapidly characterize outbreaks, implement public health containment measures to limit the spread of disease, and provide surge medical care.

The health of people, animals, and plants, and the viability of ecosystems are linked. Threats to animals, plants, and ecosystems health can cause economic disruption or physical harm to health and wellbeing. One Health, collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally, is a best practice for understanding, communicating, and mitigating biothreats swiftly and efficiently. For example 60 percent of infectious disease threats to human health emanate from other a​nimals, plants, and/or the ecosystems that we inhabit. The Strategy recognizes that a collaborative, multi-sectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach to the biodefense enterprise is necessary to effectively intervene early to prevent threats from emerging or spreading.

The National Biodefense Strategy was developed as part of a broad interagency effort that included all federal departments and agencies involved in biodefense activities, as well as input from non-federal stakeholders. The following departments and agencies will implement the strategy:

      • Department of Agriculture
      • Department of Commerce
      • Department of Defense
      • Department of Energy
      • Department of Health and Human Services
      • Department of Homeland Security
      • Department o​f the Interior
      • Department of Justice
      • Department of Labor
      • Department of State Department of Transportation
      • Department of the Treasury
      • Department of Veterans Affairs
      • Environmental Protection
      • Agency Intelligence Community
      • U.S. Agency for International Development

The rapid globalization of science and technology and the interconnectedness of travel and trade necessitate a strong global biodefense enterprise that can effectively prevent, detect and respond to bioincidents at their source. The Strategy recognizes that domestic action alone is insufficient to protect the nation’s public and agriculture health and security. While the desired outcomes at home and abroad are the same, the conditions and avenues available to influence change abroad can be very different. The Strategy encompasses lines of effort available to U.S. Departments and Agencies internationally including: direct investment in sustainable, context-appropriate capacity building and country ownership; and working with multilateral organizations, partner nations at all levels of development, private donors, and civil society to develop and implement biodefense and health security policies and practices.

The strategy recognizes that natural outbreaks pose significant threats; infectious disease threats can endanger lives and quickly disrupt economies, trade, and travel. Outbreaks anywhere in the world can rapidly spread through international travel and imperil U.S. citizens’ health, security, and prosperity and U.S. interests at home and abroad. The Strategy also recognizes that effective detection and response capabilities to any biothreat benefit from integration with natural outbreak systems.

The nature of biothreats are rapidly changing as are the tools available to address them. To ensure that the United States is poised to meet the evolving biorisk landscape, the strategy promotes innovation throughout the biodefense enterprise. This includes innovative technologies and systems; encouraging innovative technology communities and industry leaders to take on targeted biodefense and health capacity needs; linking stakeholders with innovative ideas, tools, and products; and pursuing innovative approaches and partnerships to achieve, at home and abroad, desired end states articulated in the strategy.

The U.S. National Biodefense Strategy (NBS) and the Global Health Security Strategy (GHSS) are critical national-level commitments to better protect the United States and partners around the world. The GHSS supports realization of the Strategy goals and objectives focused on promoting capacity to preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease threats at their source.

The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is a critical tool promoting global health security end states called for in the Strategy. Launched in 2014 and renewed in 2018, GHSA serves as a catalyst for progress toward the vision of attaining a world safe and secure from global health threats posed by infectious diseases. It is a collaborative, multi-sectoral initiative, bringing together countries, regions, international organizations, and the non-governmental sector (including the private sector) to accelerate and optimize global health security. ​​​​

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