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    Congress Trims Funding for Pentagon ‘Chem-Bio’ Programs

    Congress Trims Funding for Pentagon ‘Chem-Bio’ Programs

    — The latest defense spending law would subtract about 7% from the president's request for numerous Pentagon chemical and biological defense programs on the grounds that they need to be more effectively executed.

    A pair of former Defense Department officials who once oversaw the programs say spending adjustments like this may be needed. But the larger issue, they hasten to add, is that the programs need to spend about twice as much money as they do now, given a growing threat from chemical weapons and from disease-causing microorganisms that might either be used as weapons or arrive in the form of a pandemic.

    The approximately $126 million cut to the almost $2 billion worth of “chem-bio” programs is a marginal one, and funding for them generally attracts little attention. But these efforts could gain more prominence in the public mind when the Pentagon makes public the first-ever “biodefense posture review,” which is expected to occur soon.

    Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III ordered the review in November 2021, stating in a memo that internal assessments of the department's response to the coronavirus revealed successes but also, he said, “areas for improvement across the biodefense enterprise that must be addressed.”

    Despite Austin's focus, leaders traditionally have been reticent to devote funds for chem-bio programs, said Andrew Weber, a former Pentagon assistant…

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