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Legislation aims to restore chief veterinary officer position at Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. -- Federal legislators introduced a bill that would formally establish a chief veterinary officer position at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
-- Federal legislators introduced a bill that would formally establish a chief veterinary officer position at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The proposed legislation counters a recent move by DHS to eliminate the position and divided its responsibilities among staffers, which includes advising federal, state and local agencies on food safety and animal-related emergencies.
Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and veterinarian John Ensign (R-NV) introduced the bill. U.S. representatives Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) and Mike Rogers (R-AL) followed up with a companion bill in the House last week.
Both bills question the department’s ability to respond to agricultural disasters without a veterinarian in a leadership role, especially since the Federal Emergency Management Agency is part of DHS.
" [A] catastrophic foreign-animal disease outbreak could have far-reaching effects, threatening our food supply and our health and harming both domestic commerce and international trade," Akaka writes. "Putting a chief veterinary officer in charge will help DHS address these challenges."
Rogers says the move just "doesn't add up." And he asks why the department was cutting the chief veterinary officer position while at the same time spending $1 billion on moving the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York to the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility in Kansas.
"Whether it is an act of terrorism or nature, the chief veterinary officer plays a critical role in our efforts to increase our security in food and animal matters, Rogers says.
The bill now is under consideration by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, to which Akaka and Ensign belong. The House version is under consideration in the Homeland Security and Agriculture Committees.