Chairman Lynch Holds Hearing To Examine U.S. Preparedness For Biological Attacks And Infectious Disease Pandemics

Jun 26, 2019 Issues: Committee on Oversight and Reform, National Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, June 26, 2019, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, will hold a hearing on “U.S. Biodefense, Preparedness, and Implications of Antimicrobial Resistance for National Security.”  The Subcommittee will address the emergence of new biological threats, including deadly antimicrobial-resistant diseases that render existing antibiotic, antifungal, or antiviral medications virtually useless.  The Subcommittee will also evaluate the readiness of the U.S. government and healthcare system, including hospitals and emergency professionals, to respond to naturally-occurring pandemics and biological attacks that could be perpetrated by state and non-state actors.  It will also investigate the growing threat of antimicrobial-resistance, as well as the implications of this challenge for U.S. national security.

WHERE: 2247 Rayburn House Office Building 

WHEN: Wednesday, June 26, 2019

TIME: Approximately 3:00 p.m. EST

The hearing will be broadcast here

BACKGROUND

  • Innovations in biotechnology, such as synthetic biology and gene-editing techniques, have the potential for incredible public health benefits.  However, adversaries can also use these “dual-use” technologies to inflict harm through advanced biological weapons and genetically-modified diseases.
  • Non-state actors, including terrorist groups, have actively pursued biological weapons and other forms of weapons of mass destruction.  
  • U.S. national security and biodefense capabilities are also threatened by the growing challenge of antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) diseases.  An April 2019 report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations estimated that drug-resistant diseases cause at least 700,000 deaths globally each year, “a figure that could increase to 10 million deaths per year by 2050.”
  • Public health officials have identified three key measures needed to curtail the spread of antibiotic resistance:  infection control and prevention, improved stewardship and reduced use of antibiotics, and development of new antibiotics.  However, the pipeline for new antibiotics has been strained by a lack of commercial development as pharmaceutical manufacturers divest from the market.

WITNESSES

Dr. Helen Boucher, Director, Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance - Tufts Medical Center

Dr. Asha George, Executive Director - Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense

Chris Currie, Director, Emergency Management, Disaster Recovery, and DHS Management Issues, Homeland Security and Justice Team - U.S. Government Accountability Office

Dr. Cham E. Dallas (minority witness), University Professor and Director, Institute for Disaster Management - University of Georgia