Biodefense dollars not going where needed, experts warn.

Position:SECURITY BEAT: HOMELAND DEFENSE BRIEFS
 
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Although federal biodefense spending may balloon to $57 billion in 2009, the majority of this funding is failing to reach hospitals and researchers, experts said at a recent Capitol Hill briefing.

"Frankly, if I was a card-carrying terrorist, I'd go to a homeless population and infect them and we wouldn't know about it for quite a while," said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

The 2001 anthrax attacks prompted a surge of federal dollars into biodefense, but 11 departments compete for a slice Of the budget, which leaves some areas underfunded. In short, there is a tot of money being thrown around, but it may be missing the right targets.

Most funding has gone towards stockpiling more than 200 million smallpox vaccines, said Alan Pearson, director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Another large slice has been funneled into detecting weapons of mass destruction abroad, he noted.

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Domestically, hospital preparedness funding has decreased 15 percent since 2008, and state/local protection is down 18 percent. In the event of a smallpox attack, hospitals might struggle to contain the disease despite the vaccine stockpiles, Pearson said.

But smallpox is only one biological weapon, said Brad Smith, senior associate at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center. Other pathogens such as pandemic flu and Rift Valley fever could wreak havoc if medical...

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