Biosurveillance, Intelligence and Bugs
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has decided to investigate the creation of the National Biosurveillance Integration System at the Department of Homeland Security.
The operation was mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 10. Its mission is to "to provide early detection and situational awareness of biological events of potential national consequence by acquiring, integrating, analyzing, and disseminating existing human, animal, plant, and environmental biosurveillance system data into a common operating picture," according to the DHS.
The idea for the biosurveillance shop was apparently proposed in a study by Science Applications International Corp. When DHS decided to follow up and outsource the operation, SAIC won the contract. In an Aug. 7 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the committee seems quite focused on the procurement angle. Among other things, it asks for details about the request for proposal, the companies that responded and the process used to selected SAIC.
The committee is also asking for a small mountain of details about the government side of the organization, including the names of all senior managers, pay grades and such.
Hard not to wonder what they think they're going after. But things have not gone as smoothly as they could have at the nascent operation, at least according to a brief analysis in the House Homeland Security Committee's Annual Report Card.
According to the letter to Chertoff, folks from the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee sought answers during a May meeting with Acting Director Kimothy Smith. But he "refused to answer certain questions regarding the contract support for NBIS."
DHS Spokesman Russ Knocke said in an email that "the House letter is that it is completely disingenuous."
"Dr. Smith was there to brief on a different topic and when their questions about NBIS were raised, he very clearly and respectfully stated that he was not prepared to answer their questions at the time, but that we would be glad to get the committee the information it had requested. For two months following the hearing the department sought guidance from the committee on what it specifically wanted to know. The committee did not respond. This has the hallmark political motivation."
A report by the DHS inspector general is scheduled to come out on Tuesday.
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