The United States is not ready for the next biological attack, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned Monday morning.
"We're ill prepared," Ridge, who now co-chairs the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"We spend billions of dollars and are well intentioned to deal with this, but frankly, there is no centralized leadership, there is no central strategy. There is no comprehensive budget. We don't set priorities."
There are billions of dollars available, the former Pennsylvania governor continued, but "none of it is targeted" to meet the next real challenge, be it come from "Mother Nature," or if terrorists, or if other nation stations launch attacks.
"Between Mother Nature, terrorism, and the fact of the matter we use in some of our labs, and once in awhile there's a report that there's been a leakage there, we have real challenges ahead of us," said Ridge, commenting on the Blue Ribbon panel's report and 87 recommendations and some of its takeaway findings.
"It's serious enough that this bipartisan commission of three Republicans and three Democrats said you ought to locate the authority and responsibility in the White House," Ridge said.
"Secondly, we said you need an overall strategy. You have disparate agencies, five or six of the cabinet agencies and literally dozens and dozens of programs spending money, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.
"You need a comprehensive strategy, and then finally, you need somebody working with the Office of Management and Budget to set priorities."
But the nation's biodefense situation is a "serious challenge" and it cannot be ignored any longer.
There are a few reasons some of the panel's recommendations have not been met.
"Congress did respond last year and in the past couple weeks with the recommendations, one dealing with the comprehensive strategy of the National Defense Authorization Act," Ridge said.
"Frankly, I think we'll have a lot of bipartisan support."
He said he also expects cooperation from President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
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