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The Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Health and Human Services and Agriculture regularly run interagency exercises to test preparedness for biological attacks. However, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Covid-19 pandemic showed a lack of action in response.

  • Chris Currie, director of homeland security issues at GAO, said the exercises his office analyzed, taking place from 2009 to 2019, were effective in identifying challenges that actually occurred during Covid-19 but that agencies did not follow up on gaps and close them before the pandemic happened.
  • Other types of incidents the exercises cover besides pandemics include national events that affect most of the country, such as biological terrorism and accidental lab outbreaks, said Currie.
  • Currie said recommendations include defining capabilities the government needs for future biological events, communicating that to federal, state and local partners and determining accountability.
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