WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, before a joint hearing with House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation titled "Strengthening Biological Security: Traditional Threats and Emerging Challenges":
"Thank you, Chairman Bera. I’d like to express my appreciation to you and Ranking Member Yoho for hosting this hearing, and also to Chairman Langevin and members of the two subcommittees in attendance today. And finally thank you to the witnesses from the Departments of Defense and of State for being here.
"The issue of biosecurity is one of national importance. As I’ve stated previously, while the Department of Defense faces urgent challenges daily, we can never afford to lose sight of the critically important mission of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and in particular biological threats. The unpredictable nature of these threats requires that we continue to adapt our approach and iterate our response. We must learn from the current crisis and adjust our strategy to more effectively, and proactively, detect and respond to the next event. This will surely not be the last biological crisis this nation faces.
"I’m particularly interested in how your organizations, and the federal government writ-large, can more effectively use new data sets and artificial intelligence to modernize our bio-surveillance efforts. We must mature our capacity to anticipate and monitor when and where a biological event may occur, and model how a pathogen, either naturally occurring or man-made, is likely to spread. This obviously must be a global effort; and the partnerships that the Defense and State Departments have developed will be critical early warning beacons to inform our collective domestic response. Programs like the Cooperative Threat Reduction, and specifically the Biological Threat Reduction Program, are essential to maintaining our global footprint and the building the relationships that protect our forward-deployed service members and national interests.
"The current COVID crisis has served as affirmation that biological threats require a whole of government response - not just the two Departments represented here today - but inclusive of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and our State and local officials. The strength of the partnership between your organizations and the quality of the relationships you develop with our foreign partners will underpin the effectiveness of our future biosecurity efforts.
"Thank you again to our witnesses, and I yield back to the Chairman."