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Responsible Research with Biological Select Agents and Toxins
Committee Statement of Task
An ad hoc committee will assess the efficacy of regulations, procedures, and oversight that have been instituted to safeguard the public and national security against the deliberate use of biological select agents and toxins (BSAT). The assessment will specifically take into account programs for laboratory security to protect against external threats and, in particular, personnel reliability assurance programs (protection against internal threats). The committee will not address biosafety (protection against accidental releases) except to the extent that biosecurity impinges on biosafety measures. The committee will also assess the impact of biosecurity policies and regulations on the ability of the scientific community to conduct BSAT research. The committee will evaluate progress since 2001 and identify opportunities for the U.S. government to optimize the balance between controlling and mitigating security risks associated with BSAT research and ensuring the benefits of BSAT research for force and public health protection. The committee’s conclusions and recommendations will be designed to inform policy discussions in the United States regarding necessary steps to balance the security risks and benefits of BSAT research and to harmonize policies across the government, including government-funded extramural research.
Based on expert knowledge of the current oversight systems for BSAT research, information gathered in the course of the study about the specifics of the programs that have been implemented by each of the federal agencies with active BSAT research programs, and information about personnel assurance programs outside the federal government that might offer useful models or practices, the committee should:
theft during transportation because security during this process may be minimal. In addition, the physical security solutions and workforce involved in transporting select agents may not adhere to the requirements for select agent facilities (described in Chapter 2).
The committee did not have the time to fully explore this issue, especially because shipping requirements are based upon international standards regarding the transportation of hazardous materials. Therefore, any changes to transportation procedures for select agents could have unintended consequences for shipping of other materials and could unintentionally complicate the international exchange of biological materials.
Cybersecurity Because many of the physical security solutions depend on technology—such as cameras, electronic access cards, electronic inventory systems—there is a risk posed by those individuals able to hack into these command and control systems. To the extent that these systems may not be fully secure, additional risks exist.