Title II requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress within one year of enactment, and biennially thereafter, on progress made toward meeting the objectives of the Act. It provides statutory authorization for the strategic national pharmaceutical stockpile, provides additional resources to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to carry out education and training initiatives and to improve the nation’s federal laboratory capacity, and establishes a National Disaster Medical Response System of volunteers to respond, at the Secretary’s direction, to national public health emergencies (with full liability protection, re-employment rights, and other worker protections for such volunteers similar to those currently provided to those who join the National Guard).
The bill further amends and clarifies the procedures for declaring a national public health emergency and expands the authority of the Secretary during the emergency period. In declaring such an emergency, the Secretary must notify Congress within 48 hours. Such emergency period may not be longer than 180 days, unless the Secretary determines otherwise and notifies Congress of such determination. During that emergency period, the Secretary may waive certain data submittal and reporting deadlines.
A recent report by the General Accounting Office raised concerns about the lack of coordination of federal anti-bioterrorism efforts. Therefore, the bill contains a number of measures to enhance coordination and cooperation among various federal agencies. Title II establishes an Assistant Secretary for Emergency Preparedness at HHS to coordinate all functions within the Department relating to emergency preparedness, including preparing for and responding to biological threats and attacks.
Title II also creates an interdepartmental Working Group on Bioterrorism that includes the secretaries of HHS, Defense, Veteran’s Affairs, Labor, and Agriculture, the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Attorney General of the United States, and other appropriate federal officials. The Working Group consolidates and streamlines the functions of two existing working groups first established under the “Public Health Threats and Emergencies Act of 2000.” It is responsible for coordinating the development of bioterrorism countermeasures, research on pathogens likely to be used in a biological attack, shared standards for equipment to detect and protect against infection from biological pathogens, national preparedness and response for biological threats or attacks, and other matters.
Title II also establishes two advisory committees to the Secretary. The National Task Force on Children and Terrorism will report on measures necessary to ensure that the health needs of children are met in preparing for and responding to any potential biological attack or event. The Emergency Public Information and Communications Task Force will report on appropriate ways to com-