Homeland Security Replacing Troubled Anthrax Biodefense System With Another Flawed One: Report

The Trump administration is moving to replace BioWatch, the nation’s problem-plagued system for detecting an airborne attack bioweapons such as anthrax, with another flawed technology, a Los Angeles Times investigation found. BioWatch was created in a hurry after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in an effort to provide a warning system in the event of the deliberate spread of deadly pathogens. However, the system was notoriously costly and troublesome, generating scores of false alarms. The new system, called BioDetection 21, is purported to react faster and be more reliable than BioWatch, but testing showed it frequently can’t distinguish between deadly pathogens and airborne pollen or paper dust, increasing the likelihood of false alarms, according to a report commissioned by Homeland Security’s scientific staff. “Part of what I’m sort of reining in the scientists a little bit on is, ‘Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good enough,’” James McDonnell, an assistant secretary of Homeland Security, told the Times. The first new device was installed without public notice in December, and more are being placed at 11 other U.S. locations with a goal of supplanting BioWatch “within the next couple of years,” according to McDonnell.