Ari Schuler, Joseph Fitzgerald, Thomas V. Inglesby, and Tara O’Toole
Biosecurity and Bioterrorism. Volume 2, Number 4, 2004. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax mailings, the U.S. government has paid more attention to the issue of bioterrorism, allocating more than $14 billion from FY2001 to FY2004 for the creation of new programs and government positions to combat this threat.1 This additional funding for and interest in biodefense has created a number of new senior biodefense positions and has given new prominence to existing biodefense jobs in the federal government.
The purpose of this article is to provide a list of influential and potentially influential federal biodefense positions in both appointive and career tracks. This article is modeled on the “Plum Book,” which lists the top appointive positions throughout the federal government, including Executive Schedule, non-competitive Senior Executive Service, and Schedule C positions, with some senior career federal civil service positions included for completeness. Officially titled United States Governmental Policy and Supporting Positions, the Plum Book is published after each presidential election and provided as a resource for an incoming administration to aid in the appointment of senior leaders throughout the government. Such a list is of particular value at a time of presidential transition, when the potential exists for a major turnover of senior government leadership.
The House Committee on Governmental Reform alternates every four years with the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs in updating the document, which is assembled from agencies’ submittals of existing positions and from information provided by the Office of Personnel Management. The structure of the biodefense positions listed in this article is consistent with the format of the official Plum Book; the authors have added brief descriptions of positions’ scope of authority.
The list of positions in this article was created through a three-step process. First, key biodefense-related programs were identified by the authors through searches of publicly available information and reviews of each federal agency’s organizational missions and functions, budget narratives, and leadership position descriptions.
Second, public information officers for each cabinetlevel agency were asked to describe the incumbents’ primary responsibilities and to indicate whether the responsibilities associated with a given position were to make policy, administer programs, or to influence budget requests and allocations.
Finally, the public information officers who responded to these requests were then asked to add any additional positions they felt were critical to their agency’s biodefense-related efforts. The agency, position title, description, name of incumbent, and type of appointment categories were all provided by the public information officers. Public information officers could not be reached to confirm positions in the White House, State Department, and Health Affairs positions at the Department of Defense. For those executive offices and agencies whose press office failed to respond, the authors researched publicly available sources of information, which were then used as a basis for naming incumbents, describing positions, and reflecting other details.
All of the positions described in this article have policy, program, or budget authority—or some combination thereof—over an aspect of biodefense. A “program” focus is defined as key responsibility for administering one or more specific departmental biodefense programs within an assigned budget. A position with a “policy” focus is defined as one having a significant role in designing an executive agency’s biodefense policies and priorities, as ascertained by organizational mission, position description, or past experience. A position with a “budgetary” focus or authority has some responsibility for determining an agency’s or program’s budget request and for making decisions about how funds allocated by Congress will be spent. These distinctions are imperfect and often fluid. Policy direction and program administration often overlap; influence and decision-making authorities can and do shift within agencies according to specific policies, issues, and personalities.
Positions of influence in the federal government intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were excluded from this list, because naming such positions would have the potential to impair their work.
Table 1. Executive Government Positions of Influence in Biodefense
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It is important to note that few of the positions listed are solely or primarily focused on biodefense efforts. Most positions have other priorities as their overriding mission, with biodefense programs being a small part of their portfolios. An example of this would be a number of the EPA assistant administrator positions, which oversee large portfolios of responsibilities outside of bioterrorism preparedness and response. For example, the EPA Assistant Administrator for Water has numerous significant responsibilities relating to the nation’s water safety and quality but is also responsible for security surveys of water- related critical infrastructure such as dams and reservoirs.
The positions that focus primarily on civilian biodefense are primarily found within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House National Security Council and Homeland Security Council. Department of Defense positions have traditionally addressed the needs of the warfighter with respect to biological weapons, a distinction that has become increasingly blurred as DoD resources have contributed to domestic homeland security needs since the September 11 attacks. Biodefense activities are spread throughout the federal government, with more than 26 biodefense positions that are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate located in more than a dozen government agencies and government organizations. Together, these programs administered more than $5.5 billion in funding in FY2004.1 This dispersion of responsibility across multiple agencies differs from other large government national security initiatives, such as the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), for example. MDA’s head, who is appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Defense, commanded a budget of approximately $7.7 billion in FY2004.1 The budget for the Missile Defense Agency is approved by the Undersecretary for Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics, a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position.2,3
The comparative diffusion of biodefense programs reflects the multifaceted nature of biodefense activities, but this organizational structure also presents particular challenges to efforts to design, implement, and oversee a coherent, coordinated, and efficient biodefense strategy.
The authors would like to thank Michael Hopmeier; D.A. Henderson, MD; Crystal Franco; Luciana Borio, MD; Brad T. Smith, PhD; Scott Stern; and Onora Lien for their help in the creation of this article.
Schuler A. Billions for biodefense: federal agency spending FY 2001—FY 2005. Biosecur Bioterror 2004;2(2):86–96.
Defense Department Spokesman, October 19, 2004.
Historical Funding for MDA FY85–05. Washington, DC: Missile Defense Agency; 2004. Available at: http://www.acq.osd.mil/mda/mdalink/pdf/histfunds.pdf. Accessed November 4, 2004.