A gap in the line

A large-scale conventional war involving the United States and a “near peer” (read: Russia or China – see Bill Lind’s latest, below, for more) just isn’t going to happen. But a massive pandemic, either natural or released by accident or terrorism, cannot be so glibly ruled out. This season’s flu fiasco shows just how far we are from being able to cope with virus-based diseases, even relatively mild ones.

It’s hard to understand, then, why are aren’t taking this threat more seriously. This from a just-released report from the Project on Government Oversight, Pandemic Flu: Lack of Leadership and Disclosure Plague Vaccine Program:

A new agency, BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority), facilitates collaboration between government, industry, and academia in the flu vaccine program and other public health emergency programs. BARDA was established by Congress in December 2006. Now, more than twelve months later, it still lacks a permanent director.

The magnitude of the threat to the nation calls for the immediate appointment of an exceptional person of near-cabinet-level stature to lead the program who commands respect in the business and public health communities-someone willing to blast through financial and bureaucratic roadblocks.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we could make this a priority roughly on the same level as hardware designed to defeat the Soviet Union? It’s been less than a century since the last great pandemic, which in a much less crowded and connected world killed at least 20 million people, including 675,000 in the United States.

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