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Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. Thank you, Mr. Pitts, and thank you for your leadership on the committee to allow this bill to come to the floor today. Good news, Mr. Speaker: this bill is bipartisan, it's fiscally responsible, and it will make a positive impact on our Nation's national security.

It's been more than 10 years since 9/11 and the anthrax attacks that followed. And while we haven't had a successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil, our enemies are still working every day to kill innocent Americans. Today the threat of bioterrorism remains very real.

Earlier this year, the bipartisan Graham-Talent Commission warned that the United States it is still ``vulnerable to a large-scale biological attack.''

Thankfully, we have spent the last decade preparing for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats by developing and stockpiling numerous medical countermeasures to protect American citizens in case of such an attack. Because of these efforts, we now have numerous vaccines and treatments in the Strategic National Stockpile that will save lives, and thousands of lives, in the event of such an attack.

But we have more work to do to be prepared. H.R. 2405 is a bipartisan, fiscally responsible bill that will reauthorize successful biodefense programs at the Department of Health and Human Services while also making some key changes to our Nation's biodefense strategy.

In 2004 Congress passed Project BioShield, which created a market guarantee that prompted the private sector to develop countermeasures for the Federal Government. Because the government is the only purchaser of these countermeasures, it was important to show the private sector we were committed to developing and eventually purchasing these products for stockpile.

Project BioShield Special Reserve Fund has been a critical tool to protect our country against an attack, and this legislation will reauthorize the fund for 5 additional years to continue the Federal Government's commitment to procurement of medical countermeasures. Importantly, this legislation reaffirms that the Special Reserve Fund should only be used for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear countermeasure procurement. This is a national security priority, and these funds should never be diverted for other purposes.

In 2006, Congress created a Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, called BARDA, which helped bridge what many termed the ``valley of death'' that had prevented many countermeasure developers from being successful. BARDA was created because we recognize that most of the CBRN countermeasures do not yet exist and medical development countermeasure is a risky, expensive and lengthy process.

BARDA bridges the funding gap between early-stage research and the ultimate procurement of products from the SRF fund from the national stockpile. H.R. 2405 reauthorizes BARDA for 5 years.

In 2006, we also created a unique set of public health programs to assist hospitals, local public health departments, and first responders in their preparedness efforts. Under H.R. 2405, these programs have been reauthorized for an additional 5 years so that we can continue to strengthen our preparedness infrastructure so critical for prevention and dealing with any possible attack.

H.R. 2405 also strengthens the role of the HHS Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response. We need to have one leader at HHS that coordinates countermeasure development and stockpiling across all agencies. This bill does that.

Finally, this bill includes important reforms to the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA. The bill strengthens FDA's role in reviewing medical products for national security priorities.

I believe that we've identified biological threats and spent millions in taxpayers' funds to develop countermeasures. The FDA must take a lead role in getting these countermeasures approved.

While we can use many of these products without FDA approval through an emergency-use authorization, the FDA licensure is hugely important and sends an important signal to developers of these new hopeful technologies and immunizations working on next-generation medical countermeasures.

Simply put, medical countermeasures for national security priorities cannot continue to be treated the same way as the next Viagra or Lipitor. FDA must accelerate their review and approval.

It's important for Members to know that this legislation, again, is fiscally responsible. H.R. 2405 does not create any new Federal programs or increase spending in any existing programs. I am pleased CBO has confirmed this in their score. H.R. 2405 creates a 5-year reauthorization of the biodefense programs we know are working while making critical policy changes at HHS to strengthen countermeasure development and public health preparedness.

I would like to thank my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee for their hard work on this bipartisan legislation. Mr. Upton, Mr. Pitts, Mr. Waxman, Mr. Pallone, and their staffs have spent several months helping us develop a bipartisan bill that can be signed into law. I want to especially thank my friends, Gene Green, Sue Myrick, and Anna Eshoo for their work to advance this legislation; and I appreciate your work and counsel along the way, Mr. Green.

I hope we never have to use these countermeasures, Mr. Speaker; but they are critical to the assurance that the public will be protected from an attack, and we must continue to speed development and strengthen our national stockpile. Simply put, we must always be prepared.

I would urge the strong support of H.R. 2405.


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