Bush Signs $5.6 Billion BioShield Legislation
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 21, 2004 President Bush today signed bipartisan legislation designed to make America safer in the face of a biological attack.
Bush signed the Project BioShield legislation at a ceremony in the Rose Garden. The president thanked the Senate and House members from both parties who worked on and sponsored the legislation.
Project BioShield grew out of the desire to protect Americans from the threat that terrorists armed with biological weapons pose to the United States. "On Sept. 11, 2001, America saw the destruction and grief terrorists could inflict with commercial airlines turned into weapons of mass murder," Bush said during the ceremony.
"Those attacks revealed the depth of our enemies' determination, but not the extent of their ambitions," he said. "We know that the terrorists seek an even deadlier technology, and if they acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, we have no doubt they will use them to cause even greater harm."
The need for the legislation was reinforced by the anthrax mail attacks on Capitol Hill, New York and Florida in 2001.
The legislation authorizes $5.6 billion over 10 years to stockpile vaccines and drugs to fight anthrax, smallpox and other bioterror agents. "The Department of Health and Human Services has already taken steps to purchase 75 million doses of an improved anthrax vaccine for the Strategic National Stockpile," Bush said. "Under Project BioShield, HHS is moving forward with plans to require a safer second-generation small pox vaccine, an antidote to botulinum toxin, and better treatments for exposure to chemical and radiological weapons."
Under Project BioShield, research and development also is speeded up. "We will waste no time putting those new powers to use," Bush said. "Today, HHS Secretary (Tommy) Thompson will direct the (the National Institutes of Health) to launch two initiatives, one to speed the development of new treatments for victims of a biological attack, and another to expedite development of treatments for victims of a radiological or nuclear attack."
BioShield continues the impetus to build up biological agent defenses. Since 2001, the United States has increased funding for the Strategic National Stockpile by a factor of five and increased funding for biodefense research by a factor of 30, the president said. The U.S. government has also secured enough smallpox vaccine to vaccinate every American if needed.
Officials have also worked to improve the safety of food and deployed advanced environmental detectors under the BioWatch program to provide the earliest possible warning of a biological attack.