In our effort to respond the threat of bioterrorism, a critical element of preparedness is being consistently overlooked: the skilled medical and scientific employees who form the foundation of our federal civilian biodefense. Federal employees responsible for our defenses against bioterrorist attacks constitute a civilian "thin blue line" that is retreating both in terms of capacity and expertise. Perhaps more than any other terrorist threat, bioterrorism will place huge burdens on small pools of medical, scientific and technical expertise. Federal biodefense agencies are already exhibiting hairline cracks – some would say fractures – that may presage disaster, including a worsening talent shortage, a continued loss of talent, the graying of the biodefense workforce and the government's struggle to hire biodefense talent.
The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to revitalize our federal government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works.