This past week this newspaper’s front pages highlighted our senators’ and congressmen’s efforts to protect Fort Detrick’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center from the budgetary chopping block. These representatives are doing their job — their job is to protect jobs.

But back on Nov. 12, 2007, this newspaper’s lead editorial had this to say about the new labs at Detrick then in the planning stages: “These are not just more run-of-the-mill government facilities being planned for Fort Detrick. They’re labs that will be storing and studying deadly pathogens. History has shown that at even the most secure and controlled biological labs, accidents and mishaps occur. Considering what’s at stake and the health and safety concerns that are evident in the community, an independent judicial review of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for these new labs certainly makes sense.”

That judicial review never happened. Instead, our community settled for review by the National Academy of Sciences. In March 2010, the NAS issued its evaluation of the hazard assessments that were repeated practically verbatim in the environmental impact statements for all of the new labs, including NBACC’s. The NAS found the assessments “incomplete,” other than “transparent,” “the EIS failed to provide adequate and credible technical analyses,” “[the EIS] did not assess the potential for a local epidemic,” etc.

Instead of researching bio-weapons, wouldn’t it be better (including safer) to use the advanced expertise of NBACC’s employees and NBACC’s advanced laboratories to develop preventive measures and remedies for the naturally occurring diseases that afflict many millions of human beings — cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, malaria, tuberculosis, cholera?

NBACC is another “national defense” expenditure, though it is funded through the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Department of Defense. The proposed federal budget for “national defense” is already way beyond bloated.

I understand the concern about a bio-weapon attack.

But let me remind you of the fact to be found in our government’s official account of the only bio-attack in our history, namely the anthrax attacks of 2001: These attacks came from our own so-called bio-defense program. Not only that, but these attacks from the inside masqueraded as the work of radical Muslims. That’s the official account, accepted throughout the mainstream.

Barry Kissin

Frederick

(9) comments

nancypace

Barry, do you know how much money we're talking about, that goes to NBACC? I think it's not just a question of what they do, but how much money it costs the public to choose to support this effort instead of other efforts toward other worthy goals. I would welcome a LTE comparing specific defense dollars with social service dollars, or aid to medicaid or farmers or coal or opioids. Lots of worthy causes, never enough money. If the world could resolve its conflicts peacefully, wouldn't we have about twice as much money to spend on improving the world? Hmmm, that question should keep you busy for some time.... :) THX Barry. :)

nancypace

You are so right, as usual Barry. "These representatives are doing their job — their job is to protect jobs." So sad that the Big Violence industrial complex justifies its existence and govt (i.e., politicians') support with: "Well, Americans needs the jobs." A gadzillion more/better occupations would be better and more generously supported by a peaceful nation and world not throwing all its money into violently (and profitably) exacerbating human conflict. And I so agree that bio-weapons research creates more threats than it prevents. Escaped lab-produced "stuff" anyone? Arms races aren't "just" (!?) nuclear arms races. Biological and chemical arms races, however conscientiously-intended, can produce many dangerous possible outcomes too--starting in our own dearly-loved community. THANK YOU!

jerseygrl42

Barry, by now you should;d know this paper changes position based on who or which party is in power.....very rarely does it publish facts to support the merry-go-round either

threecents

Jersey, If you don't like the FNP, then please go away. At the very least, please stop trolling.

hayduke2

three [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

threecents

Two points. 1) It is incorrect to suggest that NBACC is not a state of the art facility that has not continuously undergone and passed many rigorous safety inspections from the CDC and other organizations. 2) To suggest that there is no significant threat of bio warfare or bio terrorist attacks because there haven't been many is just like saying there is no significant threat of nuclear attacks. We need defenses against both and preparation for both. Sometimes our defenses developed at Fort Detrick against bio attacks have been useful for combatting naturally occurring infections, such as botulism, ebola, and now Zika.

gary4books

I find this to make distinctions where I see very little difference. As usual Barry and I have different perspectives. That works for me. I might learn something.

marylandmirage

"Instead of researching bio-weapons, wouldn’t it be better (including safer) to use the advanced expertise of NBACC’s employees and NBACC’s advanced laboratories to develop preventive measures and remedies for the naturally occurring diseases that afflict many millions of human beings — cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, malaria, tuberculosis, cholera?" ******** Why would the LTE writer think they aren't? I believe they were researching ebola and zika, as well as developing vaccines for some other more common ailments. This is a research facility where they all have clearances, and would probably have to kill you if they told you what their clearance was (joke). Ft. Detrick researchers have produced some ground-breaking work in research areas. One small part of research is bone healing. While their focus may be primarily geared towards military, many great strides in medicine were "trickle down" from military medicine used in warfare. Ft. Detrick is, I believe, still considered a cancer research center, and they work in conjunction with other research facilities. Also, Ft. Detrick is the second largest employer in Frederick County. That will leave a lot of gaps should they close.

gary4books

When I worked at the Uniformed Services University, my project was supervised from Detrick. The University had many ties with the research in Frederick.

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