Trump puts HHS in charge of biodefense, but USDA has a role |

Trump puts HHS in charge of biodefense, but USDA has a role

President Donald Trump on Tuesday released a National Biodefense Strategy and signed a National Security Presidential Memorandum that puts Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in charge of strengthening the nation’s defenses against biological threats to health and safety.

“The National Biodefense Strategy builds on lessons learned from past biological incidents, such as the 2001 anthrax attacks, the 2009 influenza pandemic, and the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic, to develop a more resilient and effective biodefense enterprise,” Trump said in a statement.

“My administration is changing the government’s approach so that it can adapt to the complex nature of biological threats. Our National Biodefense Strategy will address the full range of biological threats, including those that are naturally occurring, deliberate, and accidental — a first for the United States government,” Trump said. “We will comprehensively evaluate our national biodefense needs and monitor implementation of our strategy on an ongoing basis in order to prioritize effectively the government’s biodefense resources and actions.”

The White House also noted that other agencies would be involved in the strategy.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement, “One of USDA’s core responsibilities is ensuring the safety of America’s food supply. Our nation’s agriculture and food systems are vulnerable to disease, pest, or poisonous agents that can occur naturally or be introduced. Preparing for these threats is a critical aspect to national security, but such an effort requires a collaborative approach such as that set forth by President Trump’s National Biodefense Strategy — an approach that not only sets the course for the U.S. to combat the real and serious 21st-century biothreats our country faces, but also emphasizes the vital role USDA maintains in safeguarding our nation’s farmers and the agricultural system. USDA is proud to play a key role in this new strategy, and we look forward to working with our partners to implement this coordinated effort.”

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