Today, following a briefing and demonstration on Capitol Hill of BioWatch detection devices, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies, and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, issued the following statement on the Homeland Security Committee's continuing oversight of the Department of Homeland Security's BioWatch program:
"As we both work each day to better secure the Homeland from terrorist attack, we agree that it is critical for the U.S. to have an effective system in place to defend the Homeland against a potentially catastrophic bioterrorism attack. Right now, the DHS BioWatch Generation 1/2 program is the Federal government's answer to early detection for dangerous, aerosolized biological agents that may be deployed by terrorists. While not without its limitations, we have worked to ensure that the system is effectively providing risk mitigation, through hearings, legislation, and most importantly, speaking with local authorities who administer the program at the local level.
"Over the course of the 112th Congress, our serious concerns about DHS's next generation (Generation 3) BioWatch acquisition have steadily grown. In early 2011, we began what has been continuing and robust oversight of Biowatch Gen-3. In an April 2011 letter, we posed to Secretary Napolitano more than 25 questions so that we could ensure the integrity of this extremely costly acquisition process. Frankly, DHS's response was unsatisfactory, and significant questions remained.
"In November, we both requested that the GAO examine this acquisition process to ensure that DHS has undertaken a rigorous determination of the capabilities of Gen-3. We expect that GAO investigators will report their findings to us in mid-September. For the past several weeks, we have been planning a joint hearing for September 20 to receive and discuss these findings. We will invite senior officials from DHS and GAO to testify.
"The BioWatch Gen-3 acquisition would be one of the most costly acquisitions ever undertaken by DHS. Congressional oversight is absolutely essential in this process, so we welcome additional and recent interest from other Members and look forward to working with them to ensure that any next generation BioWatch acquisition be done in a fiscally responsible manner."
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