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Highlights

The United States faces potentially dangerous biological threats that occur naturally or may be the result of a terrorist attack. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is developing two major initiatives to provide early detection and warning of biological threats: the National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC), a center for integrating and coordinating information on biological events of national significance, and the BioWatch program that operates systems used to test the air for biological agents. The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 requires DHS to establish a fully operational NBIC by September 30, 2008. This statement discusses the status of DHS's efforts to (1) make NBIC fully operational by the mandated deadline, and (2) improve the BioWatch program's technology. GAO's preliminary observations of these two programs are based on our ongoing work mandated by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 to review U.S. biosurveillance efforts. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed related statutes; federal directives; and DHS planning, development, and implementation documents on these two initiatives. We also interviewed DHS program officials to obtain additional information about NBIC and BioWatch. DHS reviewed a draft of this testimony and provided technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate.

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