Plum Island Animal Disease Center: DHS Has Made Significant Progress Implementing Security Recommendations, but Several Recommendations Remain Open

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "For many years, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) owned and operated the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, located on an island in the Long Island Sound off the coast of New York. Scientists at Plum Island, often with the assistance of scientists from other countries, diagnose the pathogens that cause foreign animal diseases and then conduct research to, among other things, develop vaccines to protect against them. Some of the pathogens maintained at Plum Island, such as foot-and-mouth disease, are highly contagious to livestock and could cause catastrophic ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. December 17, 2007.

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "For many years, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) owned and operated the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, located on an island in the Long Island Sound off the coast of New York. Scientists at Plum Island, often with the assistance of scientists from other countries, diagnose the pathogens that cause foreign animal diseases and then conduct research to, among other things, develop vaccines to protect against them. Some of the pathogens maintained at Plum Island, such as foot-and-mouth disease, are highly contagious to livestock and could cause catastrophic economic losses in the agricultural sector if they are released outside the facility. Other pathogens known to have been maintained at Plum Island could also cause illness and death in humans. For these reasons, USDA conducts its work on Plum Island within a sealed biocontainment area that has special safety features designed to contain the pathogens. After the terrorist attacks on the United States, new laws and regulations required officials at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to further restrict access to the pathogens in order to protect animal health and, thereby, also help reduce the possibility of bioterrorism. In addition, Plum Island and its assets and liabilities were transferred from USDA to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Today, USDA continues to conduct its diagnostic and research work on Plum Island, but it now does so in coordination with DHS as part of a broader joint strategy to protect against the intentional or accidental introduction of foreign animal diseases. In 2005, we reported that, as part of that strategy, DHS had started to develop plans to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center with a new, modernized facility. Since then, DHS has selected six possible sites for this new facility, including Plum Island. This planned higher-level biosecurity facility will enable the department to expand the research currently conducted on the island to include work on higher-consequence biological threats posed by zoonotic (i.e., transmittable from animals to humans) and foreign animal diseases."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • December 17, 2007

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Plum Island Animal Disease Center: DHS Has Made Significant Progress Implementing Security Recommendations, but Several Recommendations Remain Open, text, December 17, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295924/: accessed September 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.