- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2003

A year and a half ago, we watched terrorists turn an airplane filled with innocent people into deadly a missile. These extremists turned our free and mobile society into a weapon against us. Unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before terrorists think of other ways to hijack our free society and our advances in science and technology. They will continue to look for ways to twist technology into a tool for terror.
This is why we now believe that if there is a "next" attack it would be in the form of a biological, chemical or radiological weapon. Imagine an ink pen filled with a small vial of the smallpox virus making its way through airport security and into our country. From there it would be relatively easy to release the virus, in aerosol form, directly into the ventilation system of a large stadium where thousands of Americans are gathered to watch a basketball or football game.
Smallpox could also be released in a local shopping mall or in an airport where it could soon be spread unknowingly by passengers throughout the entire country. Within a matter of days we would have a major health hazard on our hands. Thanks to modern science, we have conquered the smallpox disease and it no longer occurs naturally. But if this virus falls into the wrong hands we would once again be fighting a deadly and desperate battle against a full-fledged smallpox epidemic.
The above scenario is frightening in the extreme, but it will remain nothing more than a frightening thought if we take precautions now to thwart chemical and biological attacks before they ever have a chance to become a reality. That is why President Bush asked Congress in his State of the Union Address to enact Project Bioshield. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which I chair, unanimously passed legislation creating Project Bioshield this spring. The legislation now awaits action in the full Senate.
Project Bioshield is a comprehensive plan for research, development and production, of vaccines and treatments our nation would need in the event of a chemical, biological or radiological attack. The legislation would meet the threat of a possible attack head-on with immediate development and stockpiling of vaccines and pharmaceutical drugs.
Project Bioshield will deploy our nations top scientists into the research and development of new safer vaccines and countermeasures. It will also allow the government to buy vast amounts of improved vaccines, devices, and drugs for smallpox, anthrax, and botulism toxin. The plan would also allow the FDA to quickly make available promising treatments during emergencies.
Preparing for a bio-chemical attack can also help to prevent one. If terrorists know we are so prepared for an attack that the effort would little harm to our population, they will have no reason to strike. The old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
We have an obligation to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Maybe that "next" attack will never come. Or maybe it will come tomorrow. We can't know when or where the enemies of freedom may choose to strike, but we have an obligation to make sure that we have done all we can to be prepared and protected if they do.

Sen. Judd Gregg, Republican from New Hampshire, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.



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