To carry out its mission “to deter war and to protect the security of our country”, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) must develop approaches to prevent, identify, and counter biological threats. To address a range of needs — from monitoring military force environmental exposures to pathogen identification to rapid diagnostics and strategies to preventing or mitigating infection following exposure — DoD requires research, development, and testing in many areas, including environmental monitoring technologies, point-of-care diagnostics, data and information analysis, management and sharing, and education and training of DoD personnel. Many of DoD’s needs are shared with and overlap the roles of other federal agencies in the biological threat space and efforts to protect public health.
In response to a request from the Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense Program, Office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Research Council (NRC) established a standing committee to assist DoD’s efforts to decrease the risk of and counter biological threats. The standing committee explores scientific and technological opportunities and potential implementation challenges and issues through a series of meetings. These meetings not only bring together science, technology, and policy experts from different sectors, but also endeavor to facilitate information exchange and mutual problem solving among representatives from the diverse government agencies that oversee scientific research and approaches to decrease the risk of biological threats.
Through its convening activities, the standing committee facilitates considerations of the following areas:
- Emerging scientific opportunities to target hosts, develop platforms, and take advantage of other new cutting-edge approaches to develop broadly useful strategies to identify and prevent or mitigate infection and its effects.
- Emerging approaches to develop manufacturing and infrastructure that is responsive to government needs and leverages the country’s corporate expertise in manufacturing.
- Emerging scientific opportunities to improve awareness of exposure to biological agents, both with host based identification and possibly field detection.
- “Non-materiel” approaches to reduce biological threats and their potential impact, including how to monitor and respond to adversary capabilities and take advantage of opportunities for increasing protection.