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Pentagon official warns of new ‘pandemics’ and other ‘biothreats’

The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. (Dreamstime/TNS)
August 24, 2023

A senior Pentagon official recently highlighted the need for the United States to have a “departmentwide focus” on increasing biological threats after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deborah G. Rosenblum, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, recently noted that the United States is facing a rapidly increasing number of biological threats across the globe, including those posed by “competitors, non-state actors and naturally occurring pandemics” that require an “integrated” focus by the Department of Defense.

Rosenblum suggested that an “integrated deterrence” against biological threats will require a “combat credible force” that is “capable of fighting through biothreats and being resilient” in the face of increasing dangers.

“These threats certainly impact the readiness and resilience of our military forces,” Rosenblum claimed. “Biodefense is no longer something that’s the purview of just specialized units who have traditionally been worried about these threats.”

The Pentagon released its first Biodefense Posture Review earlier this month, which outlines how the Department of Defense can make changes to effectively guard against biothreats from now until 2035.

According to the Department of Defense, the Biodefense Posture Review was ordered by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in a 2021 memo that unveiled the department’s vision for biodefense.

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The Biodefense Posture Review emphasizes the need for early warning protocols and the proper understanding of new biological threats, preparing the military to respond to biological threats, improving the Defense Department’s collaboration to strengthen America’s biodefense, and mitigating the impact of biological threats on the department’s missions.

“We are at a pivotal point in biodefense,” Rosenblum said. “We must maintain our momentum to prepare for any number of complex potential biological threats.” 

The reforms listed under the Biodefense Posture Review will be implemented by a new biodefense council, which will be led by Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William A. LaPlante.

According to the Department of Defense, the BioDefense Posture Review reforms are also in line with National Defense Strategy priorities, such as defending the United States against the threat of China, establishing a “resilient joint force,” and deterring a variety of attacks against the United States and its allies.

“The [Biodefense Posture Review] was built on the foundation laid out in the National Defense Strategy along with the National Biodefense Strategy, but it was also greatly informed by a number of lessons learned from the COVID-19 response,” Rosenblum said.