WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama has ordered the heads of all executive departments and agencies to develop an oversight plan to centrally manage all biological select agents and toxins used for national security purposes.
“Biological select agents and toxins” is the federal phrase for biological weapons. It means those germs and diseases that pose a severe threat to the health and safety of the public, the environment and plants.
The Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture are primarily responsible for regulating the possession and transportation of biological select agents and toxins, but the Departments of Justice and Defense and a host of other federal agencies regulate, develop, store or deploy them.
The president’s order is to implement the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Protection Act.
The act and the president’s order call for the creation of a Select Agent Program that would include a tiered list of the agents and toxins that would do the most harm if lost, stolen or otherwise diverted from official protection and released in the environment.
The list would include the agency primarily responsible for regulation of the agent or toxin and would identify plans to prevent a release, and secure lost or stolen agents, or, in the event of a release, to mitigate the impacts.
The Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture have 15 months to complete their task and report back to the president.