Open main menu

National Biodefense Strategy

The National Biodefense Strategy is a security strategy put together by the Trump Administration in 2018.

In September 2018, President Donald Trump announced and issued the strategy. It repeals policies implemented under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, while placing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in charge of leading the federal government's biodefense efforts. The committee led by HHS includes high-level officials from the Defense Department, Agriculture Department, and Homeland Security Departments, as well as the intelligence community and 15 other executive branch agencies.[1]

According to the White House, it is a vital interest of the United States to manage the risks involved with a biological incident. A biological incident has the potential to cost thousands of lives, cause significant panic, and greatly impact travel and trade. Biological threats, whether they come from nature or are deliberately created, are among the most serious threats facing the US and the international community. Outbreaks of disease caused catastrophic harm to the countries in which they are present.[2]

The National Biodefense Strategy lays out the President's path to protecting the American people and the American way of life, and lays out a plan and set of objectives to counter the threats that can occur from naturally occurring events, accidental events, and deliberate biological terrorism events. The strategy is more than just a federal government strategy; is a call to action for all levels of government as well as physicians, scientists, educators, and industry.[2]

The strategy was required by Congress. President Trump said that his plan takes bio defense in a new direction that has a more coordinated, centralized approach based on lessons that were learned from past biological incidents such as the west Africa Ebola epidemic of 2014.[3]

According to the New York Times, "A privately sponsored group that has studied biodefense issues since 2014 applauded the White House's strategy. The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense has warned that the U.S. is dangerously vulnerable to a large-scale biological attack and has urged Washington to develop a more comprehensive strategy."[3]


In mid-September 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump implemented a new national biodefense strategy. His new strategy wiped away those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. The main thrust of the strategy is that a Department of Health and Human Services led committee will survey all the gaps in biodefense within the government and all the agencies that work on it. The committee will include high-level officials from the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Homeland Security. The group will focus on both man-made threats and naturally occurring biological threats. The survey, in turn, will determine funding levels for various agencies for biodefense.[4]


Historically, biological warfare agents that have concerned security officials have included a relatively select group of pathogens and toxins, referred to as "traditional BW agents."[5]

Many of the national discussions regarding putting together a national biodefense plan, unfortunately have only taken into account a more narrow vision of what type of toxins would be used in a biological warfare event - those "traditional BW agents." Although the traditional agents will likely remain the main threat over the next decade, the applications of current and emerging technologies that are developing novel biological warfare agents should also be considered and factored into any long-term bow defense strategy.[5]

International agreements, such as the Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention have really not done a lot to stop countries from obtaining and pursuing biological warfare programs. For instance, following ratification of the agreement, the Soviet Union's technology in biological warfare was at its height.[5]

Federal roleEdit

The mission of the Federal Government during a biological incident is to:[2]

  • save lives
  • reduce human suffering
  • protect property and the environment
  • control the spread of disease
  • support community efforts to overcome the physical, emotional, environmental, and economic impacts

Federal funding historyEdit

The push for increased federal funding in biodefense began during President George W. Bush's term in office. For example, in 2006, President Bush, in his annual budget request, requested a total of $5.1 billion for civilian biodefense. This number was a decrease of $2.5 billion from the previous year's budget. The drop was primarily attributed to the absence of Project BioShield money in 2006; the money for that year was already allocated the previous year. Overall, the 2006 request contained incremental increases for all agencies involved in biodefense.[6]

Advanced biological warfare agentsEdit

Multidisciplinary technology that's been created in the biological sciences arena will have a huge effect globally. They will have the power to completely revolutionize biological warfare because they will be releasing an entirely new class of engineered agents referred to as "advanced biological warfare" (ABW) agents. Future agents could even be engineered to target specific systems within the human body at the molecular level.[5]

Future threatsEdit

According to the academic journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, advanced biological warfare agents will continue to evolve and develop due to technological innovation. At the same time, due to advances in science regarding biology, biological agents will also evolve and get worse. Although advanced biological warfare agents will not replace the traditional threats posed by agents such as smallpox and anthrax, the advanced biological warfare agents can become a novel approach to counter proliferation, medical countermeasures, and detection.[5]

National Security Adviser John Bolton said that biological and chemical weapons "are often referred to as the poor man’s nuclear weapon, so they are particularly attractive to terrorist groups."[4]

National Memorandum on the Support for National BiodefenseEdit

On September 18, 2018, in conjunction with his release of the National Biodefense Strategy, President Trump issued a memorandum on his biodefense strategy to his cabinet and heads of major relevant agencies. The memorandum dictates the policy of the United States with regards to biodefense. It officially forms a new committee, which is chaired by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Several other high-level cabinet members will sit on the committee, and it will be the committee's charge to implement the National Biodefense Strategy. In addition, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must establish a new special team of people from across different agencies to carry out the plan.[7]

National Biodefense StrategyEdit

The official vision of the National Biodefense Strategy is as follows: "The United States actively and effectively prevents, prepares for, responds to, recovers from, and mitigates risk from natural, accidental, or deliberate biological threats."[2]

Private sector actorsEdit

According to Politico, "Senior administration officials later said threats could be better addressed by streamlining processes for biotech companies to work with the HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which supports private sector development of vaccines and drugs."[4]

One official from the Trump Administration said that the government's accounting requirements have made it difficult and undesirable for many companies to participate.[4]

Project BioShield Special Reserve FundEdit

HHS Assistant Secretary Robert Kadlec said that one of his top priorities was to get a decade-long extension of the Project BioShield Special Reserve Fund. The government can use that fund to buy countermeasures like vaccines, medication, and diagnostic tools. The fund was first authorized under President George W. Bush in 2004.[4]


  1. ^ Owermohle, Sarah. "Trump puts HHS in charge of defense against biological threats". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018-12-31.
  2. ^ a b c d "The National Biodefense Strategy 2018" (PDF). The Office of the President of the United States. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
  3. ^ a b "White House Sets 'New Direction' in Biodefense Strategy". The New York Times. 2018-09-18. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Trump puts HHS in charge of defense against biological threats". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
  5. ^ a b c d e Petro, James B.; Plasse, Theodore R.; McNulty, Jack A. (September 2003). "Biotechnology: Impact on Biological Warfare and Biodefense". Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. 1 (3): 161–168. doi:10.1089/153871303769201815.
  6. ^ Schuler, Ari (June 2005). "Billions for Biodefense: Federal Agency Biodefense Budgeting, FY2005–FY2006". Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. 3 (2): 94–101. doi:10.1089/bsp.2005.3.94.
  7. ^ "Presidential Memorandum on the Support for National Biodefense | The White House". The White House. Retrieved 2018-09-28.