- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 18, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cabinet secretaries participated in a drill yesterday that simulated a smallpox attack as the government tested plans to counter the potential use of bioweapons by terrorists.

“The purpose of this exercise, which was only a drill, was to address the federal government’s response to a potential smallpox attack,” said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman. “While there’s concern, we do not have any concern that a smallpox attack is imminent.”

Officials from various government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Julie Gerberding, participated in the four-hour exercise to identify gaps in local and state preparedness plans and fine-tune the federal government’s response.

Members of the Cabinet who participated were: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson.

President Bush, who was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, did not take part in the drill, conducted in a conference room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

The simulation yesterday was the second drill to check the nation’s readiness for catastrophic attacks. Federal officials said that a similar rehearsal in December for pandemic flu showed that saving lives and containing economic damage would require more planning in local communities and production of more vaccines and medications.

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