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National Preparedness: Improvements Needed for Acquiring Medical Countermeasures to Threats from Terrorism and Other Sources

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2011
58 pages
The U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) assessed the extent to which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has based its priority for developing and acquiring medical countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents on risk assessments; whether HHS has addressed its own recommendations for improving the development and acquisition of such countermeasures; and whether there is appropriate coordination for such efforts.
GAO found that HHS has led Federal efforts to develop and acquire countermeasures for CBRN agents primarily through the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE). The PHEMCE laid out its priorities for the development and acquisition of CBRN medical countermeasures in 2007. The plan is based on two types of CBRN risk assessments, one from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and one from HHS; however, HHS has not updated the plan as intended according to any changes in priorities. In addition, HHS has not provided information on anticipated budget priorities for countermeasure acquisition. This information is needed by companies so as to assist them in deciding whether to invest in product development. HHS officials indicated they have a monitoring strategy that includes quarterly updates of a planning document and quarterly and annual reviews of progress; however, the planning document does not contain complete information and does not allow for measuring progress across all initiatives. GAO recommends that HHS update its development and acquisition plan for CBRN medical countermeasures; provide budget priorities for acquisitions; and develop a strategy to monitor implementation of its initiatives. HHS agreed with the first two recommendations. Regarding the third recommendation, HHS indicated it has a strategy to track implementation; however, in GAO's assessment, the strategy does not meet standards and practices required for adequate monitoring. 2 tables and 1 figure