DOD To Change Anthrax Testing, Inactivation

Despite the fact that the Army sent more than 180 potentially live samples of anthrax to labs in all 50 states and nine countries, neither the lab technicians nor the American public were ever at risk, officials said Jan. 15 during a Pentagon press conference. However, the Defense Department is implementing several new recommendations to improve the program, including developing new procedures for inactivating and testing anthrax. After a lab in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, sent the potentially live samples, the Pentagon created a team to investigate what happened. That investigation found “that a combination of events, including gaps in science, institutional issues, and personal accountability, when taken together, each contributed to this event,” Army Maj. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the head of the investigation, said during the press conference. In addition to the new anthrax testing procedures, DOD will establish an executive agent, a standing biological safety review panel, a process to screen and validate all requests for biological products from outside the department, and a central process to track and monitor all requests and transfers. The Army also has transferred control of the biological lab at Dugway Proving Ground from the Army Test and Evaluation Command to the service’s Research Development and Engineering Command and eliminated the lab’s mission of producing biological agents for export. (See also: Army Possibly Misheld, Shipped Samples of the Plague, Encephalitis.)