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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Project BioShield Act: Issues for the 112th Congress



Frank Gottron
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

In 2004, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act (P.L. 108-276) to provide the federal government with new authorities related to the development, procurement, and use of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents. As the expiration of some of these authorities approaches, Congress is considering whether these authorities have sufficiently contributed to national preparedness to merit extension.

The Project BioShield Act provides three main authorities: (1) guaranteeing a federal market for new CBRN medical countermeasures, (2) permitting emergency use of countermeasures that are either unapproved or have not been approved for the intended emergency use, and (3) relaxing regulatory requirements for some CBRN terrorism-related spending. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used each of these authorities. The HHS obligated approximately $2.625 billion to guarantee a government market for countermeasures against anthrax, botulism, radiation exposure, and smallpox. The HHS allowed the emergency use of several unapproved products, including during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. The HHS used expedited review authorities to approve contracts and grants related to CBRN countermeasure research and development.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-90) advanceappropriated $5.593 billion to acquire CBRN countermeasures through Project BioShield for FY2004-FY2013. Subsequent Congresses have removed $2.078 billion from this account through rescissions and transfers, more than one-third of the advance appropriation. The transfers from this account supported CBRN medical countermeasure advanced development, pandemic influenza preparedness and response, and basic biomedical research.

Since passing the Project BioShield Act, Congress has considered additional measures to further encourage countermeasure development. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (P.L. 109-417) created the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in HHS and modified the Project BioShield procurement process. Among other duties, BARDA oversees all of HHS’s Project BioShield procurements.

The 112
th Congress is considering several Project BioShield-related policy questions. One question is whether the Project BioShield acquisition mechanism merits extension based on its relative cost and contribution to national preparedness. If so, congressional policymakers may consider whether changes to the funding levels or how Congress provides Project BioShield funds would improve the program’s efficiency or performance. Additionally, congressional policymakers are considering whether the federal government sufficiently plans and coordinates its CBRN countermeasure efforts from basic research to distribution. Finally, Congress is considering whether changes to the emergency use authority will improve preparedness and planning.

Four bills in the 112
th Congress address some of these Project BioShield-related issues, H.R. 2356, H.R. 2405, H.R. 6672, and S. 1855.


Date of Report: December 21, 2012
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R42349
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