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House passed Strong's bipartisan biodefense bill

The U.S. House of Representatives recently unanimously passed Representative Dale W. Strong's (R-Huntsville) bill, H.R. 6174 – the "DHS Biodetection Improvement Act." Strong explained that his legislation will bolster U.S. biodefense by ensuring that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is positioned to combat bioterrorism threats.

"I am glad that my colleagues recognized the importance of this legislation and passed it unanimously," said Rep. Strong. "Threats from America's enemies have continued to evolve and become more complex. The anthrax attacks of 2001 opened our eyes to a new threat landscape that included acts of bioterrorism."

In the wake of the 2001 attacks, DHS established a program called BioWatch, which monitors, collects, and tests air samples for biological agents likely to be used in a terrorist attack. Unfortunately, there have been breakdowns in accurate and timely information sharing as well as lagging technological upgrades that has led DHS to fall behind.

"As a first responder myself, I know the difference that early detection makes," Strong said. "This legislation will ensure DHS is fully leveraging every tool and resource to accomplish the goal of protecting Americans against bioterrorism. As our adversaries watch on, we cannot afford to fall behind, America's security depends on it."

If passed into law, this bill will require DHS to do the following:

• Utilize the Department of Energy's National Labs to develop new technologies related to biodefense.

• Develop a plan to acquire existing technologies to meet DHS' biodetection mission needs.

• Conduct external evaluations to identify gaps and potential failure points.

• Submit a report to Congress outlining a defined plan for the future of biodetection.

Dale Strong is the former Chairman of the Madison County Commission. He is a volunteer fire fighter and paramedic. He is serving in his first term in Congress representing Alabama's Fifth Congressional District.

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