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Highlights

Biosafety laboratories are primarily regulated by either the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), depending on whether the substances they handle pose a threat to the health of humans or plants, animals, and related products, respectively. Currently, all operational biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) labs are overseen by HHS's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). BSL-4 labs handle the world's most dangerous agents and toxins that cause incurable and deadly diseases. This testimony summarizes GAO's previously issued reports on perimeter security at the nation's BSL-4 laboratories that were issued in September 2008 (GAO-08-1092) and July 2009 (GAO-09-851). Specifically, this testimony describes (1) the findings and recommendation on key perimeter security controls at five of the nation's operational BSL-4 labs, (2) CDC efforts to address our recommendation, (3) improvements that have been made to the perimeter security controls at the two labs found to be deficient, and (4) other observations about the BSL-4 labs GAO assessed.

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