Sens. Marshall, Grassley, Inhofe, Blackburn and Ernst Introduce National BioSecurity Improvement Act
(Washington, D.C., December 23, 2021) – U.S. Senators Roger Marshall, M.D. (KS), Chuck Grassley (IA), Jim Inhofe (OK), Marsha Blackburn (TN), and Joni Ernst (IA) introduced the National Biosecurity Improvement Act, legislation to ensure federally-funded research involving potentially dangerous pathogens does not compromise national security. This legislation follows congressional inquiries and various news investigations revealing national security issues including federal agencies authorizing dangerous research with certain foreign entities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed many vulnerabilities in our federal programs, but none has been more troubling than the type of dangerous research we fund and the international partners that are involved,” said Senator Marshall. “I believe we need to put a full moratorium in place on gain-of-function, we also need our watchdog agency to look under the hood and evaluate HHS’ policies that could jeopardize global public health. If this research is to continue, we need to understand how to do so safely, put proper protections in place and ensure federal agencies are held accountable to the American people.”
“The more we learn about the potential origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the more questions we have about the role of state actors and even our own government in researching dangerous pathogens. As we continue to investigate, Americans deserve answers on the extent to which the U.S. government engages in or funds risky research and what policies are in place to ensure it is done safely and in a way that doesn’t jeopardize our national security. This bill brings about much needed transparency into the government’s policies and past actions regarding such risky research,” said Senator Grassley.
“The COVID pandemic has highlighted the need for safeguards to ensure federally-funded research does not pose a threat to national security. This legislation will provide much needed oversight on how agencies evaluate risk when making decisions about federal funding to support research in other countries,” said Senator Blackburn.
“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need more transparency surrounding federal agencies’ funding of various research, particularly regarding potentially dangerous pathogens. This bill will increase oversight and help ensure research is conducted safely and securely, both in the United States and overseas, to protect the safety of Iowans and all Americans,” said Senator Ernst.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent agency tasked with making recommendations to improve all federal agencies’ integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness. As such, the legislation would require the GAO to conduct a program evaluation on the following:
1. How federal agencies that fund research involving the enhancement of potential pandemic pathogens and related risky research with potentially dangerous pathogens, ensure this research is conducted safely and securely and without compromising national security.
2. Efforts to establish a common domestic and international approach to ensuring the safety and security of research involving the enhancement of potential pandemic pathogens and related risky research with potentially dangerous pathogens.
3. The extent these agencies consider national security information when making decisions about federal funding to support research in other countries.
The National Biosecurity Improvement Act of 2021 is part of Senator Marshall’s multi-step path forward on getting to the bottom of the origins of COVID-19. In October, he introduced the Viral Gain of Function Research Moratorium Act, legislation that would place a moratorium on all federal research grants to universities and other organizations conducting gain-of-function research and risky research on potential pandemic pathogens.