President Bush has signed a classified directive governing how the U.S. should defend itself against biological attacks. Yesterday the administration issued an unclassified version that laid out some responsibilities of federal agencies, reports the Washington Post. Agencies have spent billions of dollars and started new programs to counter bioterrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, but those efforts were at times ad hoc, temporary, or uncoordinated. The new directive clarifies which agencies are responsible for what tasks. Details remain secret.
The directive contains 59 “taskings” of agencies, such as ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to develop detailed plans for decontaminating cities after a strike. An unclassified summary says the U.S. intelligence community is under orders to carry out studies on genetically engineered “bugs” terrorists could be working on to mount an attack. “This directive makes sure important things don’t fall through the cracks,” said a senior Homeland Security Department official. “Now every single agency knows what its job is, and we don’t think there are any gaps.”
Democrats in Congress said the administration was slow. “More than two years after the anthrax attacks, the administration should have long since decided who is in charge of implementing a biodefense strategy,” Rep. Jim Turner (Tex.), the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said. “We need much more than what was announced today.”