The Pentagon has broken ground on a biodefense facility in Florida that is expected to cost $40 million annually for the next five years.
The DOD did this despite the fact that experts said it wasn’t needed, the White House said it wasn’t wanted, and the work to be done there duplicates already existing Health and Human Service Department programs.
The Pentagon’s new facility also gets it into the drug manufacturing business, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Once complete, the facility will produce flu vaccines and other drugs meant to counteract bioweapons.
The Pentagon is building the facility under the authority of former counterterrorism chief John Brennan, who approved it in 2010, saying DOD should “establish agile and flexible advanced development and manufacturing capabilities.”
In 2009, however, the White House recommended that plans for the facility be shelved. A study commissioned by former President George W. Bush found that “contract manufacturing is less costly and timelier than constructing and operating a dedicated facility.”
DOD is also moving ahead with the facility despite the fact that HHS has been stockpiling these drugs for years as part of a bioterror preparedness program. The department has long been working with private industry to guarantee that these drugs would be available in the event of an attack.
Assistant Secretary of Defense Andrew C. Weber championed construction of the facility. It’s being paid for with money budgeted to purchase boots, masks and early-warning chemical and biological weapons sensors. James Petro, an aide to Weber, defended the facility to The L.A. Times.
“It’s about making sure that our men and women in uniform have the protection that they need against these threats,” he said.
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