Biological weapons present a potentially catastrophic threat to the United States, and one way the nation’s security professionals have sought to mitigate this threat is through BioWatch, a detection warning system. The program’s flaws and high costs have prompted some to call for the end of BioWatch, but as I wrote in a recent piece for the LA Times, this is not a good idea.

Bag BioWatch Because of its Bugs? Bad Idea – Los Angeles Times

BioWatch, the Homeland Security-led effort to provide early warning if biological pathogens are released against the American people, has fallen into disfavor in some corners. The Times produced a series of highly critical articles, and the editorial board has chimed in, suggesting that the program be “squashed.” But calls to bag BioWatch, while well intentioned, are frankly ill-advised.

Yes, BioWatch is far from perfect. The program has problems and needs to improve. But flawed as it is, BioWatch does increase security. Much like Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system, BioWatch isn’t perfect. But it’s a huge improvement over what we had before, which was nothing.

And yes, BioWatch is very costly. But the dangers it aims to mitigate are catastrophic. What leader is prepared to stand before the American people and say, “Well, we might have been able to detect that bio-weapon before it killed thousands of innocents, but BioWatch might not have saved everyone … and just think of all the money we saved by pulling the plug!”

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Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More