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Ex-colleague questions government's case against anthrax suspect

August 08, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
(Page 3 of 4)

A9. The PRP provides for a system of continuous evaluation. This includes evaluations by supervisors, fellow workers, Certifying Officials and support staff, in addition to self reporting of any potentially disqualifying information to the CO. Potentially disqualifying information would include the employee's being charged with or convicted of a crime, as well as prescription medications being taken and/or outside medical treatment being received.

Supervisors at USAMRIID have the ability to make a day-to-day judgment call as to whether an employee should work with BSAT. To avoid laboratory mishaps, if a supervisor observes that an employee is under a great deal of stress, seems unusually distracted, or is exhibiting other signs of strain, the employee's entry privileges can be temporarily suspended until the situation is resolved. This is done for the safety of both the employee and the other laboratory personnel. In the case of Dr. Ivins, his biocontainment laboratory access was restricted on 1 November 2007, meaning that he would have had no access to BSAT from that date forward.

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Q10. What was the reaction at USAMRIID to the announcement by the DOJ today?

A10. It has always been considered possible that a U.S. government employee could have been responsible for the letters. For that reason, USAMRIID leadership and staff cooperated fully through every phase of the investigation, while continuing to carry out the Institute's core mission. USAMRIID also significantly increased its physical security and personnel screening processes and standards. USAMRIID implemented the Army's biosurety program in 2003 and has enrolled all of its employees who work with BSAT in the Personnel Reliability Program. USAMRIID continues to cooperate with the FBI investigation and to conduct research that leads to the development of medical countermeasures for biological defense.

Q11. Is USAMRIID's research program classified?

A11. No. USAMRIID research is widely published in the open scientific literature. The program is unclassified and scientists are encouraged to publish in peer-reviewed journals and to present their findings at national and international scientific meetings.

While USAMRIID's primary mission is to protect the troops, its research often has civilian applications as well, as evidenced by many Cooperative Research and Development Agreements and other partnerships established with industry, academia and other government agencies.

Q12. How does USAMRIID ensure the safety of its workers and the surrounding community? Have any illnesses or deaths ever resulted from a laboratory mishap at USAMRIID?

A12. The Institute has a comprehensive safety program that emphasizes safety training, risk management, environmental surveillance, and occupational health screening. In the past 34 years, there have been only five confirmed cases of laboratory-acquired infection, all involving USAMRIID employees -- not persons outside the Institute. Moreover, safety records for the past 3 years have documented a steady decline in the annual rate of potential exposures from about 16 to 4 per 1,000 personnel in the program. A culture of safety and risk management is encouraged at the laboratory in order to maintain a safe and secure environment for the workforce and the surrounding military and civilian communities.

BIOLOGICAL SURETY AT USAMRIID

Q1. What does the biosurety program consists of?

A1. The USAMRIID biosurety program consists of 4 key areas: physical security, safety, personnel reliability, and agent accountability

Q2. What does Physical Security at USAMRIID consist of?

A2. The physical security program at USAMRIID allows only authorized individuals access to the areas in which the select agents are stored or used. Access is authorized only after an individual satisfactorily completes laboratory safety training, physical examination screening, appropriate immunizations, and a favorable security background investigation by the FBI. Before an individual enters the laboratory unaccompanied, a laboratory supervisor mentors the individual on laboratory-specific tasks. Redundant security measures use identification badges and personal identification numbers to ensure that access is limited to authorized personnel.

Q3. What does the safety element consist of?

A3. The USAMRIID commander's primary objective is to provide a safe and secure environment for the workforce and the surrounding military and civilian communities. The institute has a comprehensive safety program that emphasizes safety training and mentorship, risk management, environmental surveillance, and occupational health screening.

Q4. What type of safety training does USAMRIID require?

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