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HHS News
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2001
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343


Emergency Request To Strengthen Nation’s Ability To Respond To Any Threat

President Bush’s $20 billion emergency relief budget request includes $1.5 billion for HHS to further strengthen the nation’s ability to respond to and treat potential bioterrorism attacks, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced Wednesday.

The $1.5 billion emergency request is in addition to HHS’ regular fiscal year 2002 budget request of $345 million for bioterrorism preparedne ss and would allow HHS to greatly accelerate its efforts to deal with any potential bioterrorism incident. The total request of $1.9 billion represents more than a six-fold increase above the $297 million Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2001 for HHS’ bioterrorism preparedness efforts.

"President Bush wants to make sure America's ability to deal with bioterrorism is as strong as possible and he’s aggressively pursuing the tools needed," Secretary Thompson said. "We’re currently responding quickly and effectively to the biological events in our country, but this comprehensive package will substantially strengthen our capabilities. In particular, the package helps build the response capabilities of state and local government as well as bolster our pharmaceutical stockpile."

The $1.5 billion emergency budget request will support efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other HHS agencies, as well as state and local efforts. Key elements include:

  • Expanding the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile. The proposal includes $643 million to expand this essential program that ensures speedy distribution of antibiotics and other supplies in the event of a major incident. It would ensure antibiotics are available to protect as many as 12 million people from potential anthrax exposure, as well as increasing other stockpiles of medical supplies at secure locations around the country. This funding also would support state and local stockpiles and train state and local experts in the use of stockpiled supplies if needed.

  • Expanding smallpox vaccine supplies. The proposal includes $509 million to speed the development and acquisition of smallpox vaccine in order to reach any American potentially exposed to the virus in a potential bioterrorist attack. Currently, more than 15 million doses of smallpox vaccine are available. The additional funds will allow the department to stockpile as much vaccine as needed to protect the nation in the event of an outbreak of smallpox.

  • Speeding the development of new bioterrorism tools. The proposal includes $34.6 million to expedite the work of the FDA on bioterrorism vaccines, drug therapies, diagnostic tests and consultations with other agencies and private industry.

  • Increasing state and local readiness. The proposal includes $175 million for state and local efforts related to bioterrorism readiness. Specifically, $50 million will support increased capacity at the nation’s hospitals and other health facilities in the event of any incident that could potentially lead to mass casualties. Another $50 million will bolster the Metropolitan Medical Response System, consisting of federally supported local preparedness efforts in 122 cities this fiscal year, to respond to bioterrorism, especially the public health aspects; $10 million will support other local planning efforts; $40 million will support early detection surveillance to identify potential bioterrorism agents; $15 million will support increased capacity in up to an additional 45 state and local laboratories (for a total of 78); and $10 million will increase the capacity for CDC and state and local laboratories to assess exposure to 150 hazardous chemical agents through blood and urine tests.

  • Expanding HHS response capabilities. The proposal includes $88 million to expand HHS’ capacity to respond to bioterrorism incidents, including $20 million for the CDC’s Rapid Response and Advance Technology and specialty labs, which provide quick identification of suspected agents and technical assistance to state labs; and $20 million to support additional specialized expert epidemiology teams to send to states and cities to rapidly respond to public health risks, infectious diseases and other disaster-related needs, including Epidemic Intelligence Officers specifically assigned to all 50 states. Other resources will increase capacity in other HHS response programs; strengthen emergency communication for federal, state and local governments during crisis situations; and improve global surveillance of infectious diseases, focusing on potential terrorist agents.

  • Improving food safety. The proposal includes $61 million to allow increased inspections of imported food products. The additional resources will allow the FDA to hire 410 more inspectors, lab specialists and other compliance experts, in addition to allowing the FDA to invest in new technology and scientific equipment to detect select agents.

In addition to the $1.5 billion emergency bioterrorism proposal, the administration has proposed an additional $84 million for other recovery and non-bioterrorism efforts. This includes $20 million to replenish public health resources in New York; $39 million to improve security at HHS laboratories (in addition to $4.75 million announced Sept. 21 as a result of Congress’ earlier emergency appropriation); $15 million for emergency-response equipment; and another $10 million for social services activities (in addition to the $25 million released in the first round of emergency funding).

"In recent weeks, we demonstrated that we can respond quickly and effectively to contain a potential bioterrorism incident, but we also know that we must quickly build on our progress in order to better protect Americans in the future," Secretary Thompson said. "This emergency request would accelerate our efforts to expand response capabilities nationally and locally, and bolster our stockpiles of pharmaceuticals and other supplies that may be needed following a major attack."

In a bioterrorism event, HHS has special responsibilities, including detecting the disease, investigating the outbreak, and providing stockpiled drugs and emergency supplies in the large amounts needed. In July, Secretary Thompson named Scott Lillibridge, a physician who had coordinated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s bioterrorism response efforts, as special advisor to lead the department's coordinated bioterrorism initiative.

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Note: Additional background is available at Click on "Biological Incidents."