Ruppersberger Joins Cardin, Van Hollen and Delaney in Calling on President to Protect America’s Chemical and Biological Defenses
“The risk of biological and chemical agents being used is increasing. This is not the time to be weakening our defenses against such weapons.”
Maryland lawmakers will be pursuing all options to reverse this decision by the administration
WASHINGTON – Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, with U.S Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and Congressman John K. Delaney, have written to President Trump urging him to prioritize protecting our nation from the real threats of chemical and biological weapons rather than diverting resources for a fruitless wall at our southern border. The lawmakers expressed their alarm not only that the administration was seeking to shut down the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) on Fort Detrick and the Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC) on Aberdeen Proving Ground, but also that budget officials were giving shutdown instructions based on the president’s Fiscal Year 18 budget, which does not have the force of law and would require congressional appropriations to be enacted. Congress fully funded both the NBACC and CSAC in the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations that were signed into law by President Trump. The Maryland lawmakers will be pursuing all options to reverse this decision by the administration.
“These actions are alarming and will put the American people at greater risk of a chemical or biological terrorist attack,” the lawmakers wrote. “The NBACC’s two centers – the National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC) and the National Biological Threat Characterization Center (NBTCC) – conduct technical analyses in support of federal law enforcement investigations and identify biological vulnerabilities and hazards to our nation. …CSAC plays a proactive role in identifying vulnerabilities in our nation’s infrastructure, effectively mitigating damages from accidental chemical discharge to terrorist attacks.”
“We urge you to suspend any actions that would lead to the closure of these two facilities, both of which play vital roles in America’s national security and the safety of the American people which cannot be replicated elsewhere. Closing these labs will only serve to put our country at risk by creating chemical and biological vulnerabilities that terrorists and adversaries are anxious to exploit. The risk of biological and chemical agents being used is increasing. This is not the time to be weakening our defenses against such weapons.”
A Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense chaired by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Governor Tom Ridge also has expressed concerns with the planned lab closure: “NBACC is the only facility in the United States with the bioforensics capability needed to assist the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] in its investigations. … The Panel is troubled that the President's own budget states that the lab's work supports intelligence assessments, preparedness planning, emerging threat characterization, and bioforensic analyses, and that its closure may impact DHS' ability to characterize high-consequence pathogens before and during a biological event.”
The full letter is below and at this link. Copies were sent to Mick Mulvaney, Director, Office of Management and Budget; Secretary John Kelly, Department of Homeland Security; Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice; and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.