Atop high-rise government buildings and inside critical military installations across the country, you’ll find high-tech sensor systems installed to sniff the air in search of any hint of dangerous bacteria, viruses or toxins that might be dispersed in an airborne attack. The detection devices, part of a multi-faceted $100 billion federal effort to bolster the nation’s biological defenses, were installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
None of them, however, saw the coronavirus coming. Despite the piles of money, gee-whiz gadgetry and high-minded strategy that’s been thrown at the biodefense effort in the last 20 years, officials in the highest reaches of the U.S. government and military have found themselves hobbled by a deadly disease that has been passed around at federal locations with the highest security protocols. It’s a plot line that America’s adversaries could only dream of — and a red flag that U.S. government and military remain vulnerable to biological threats, whether they are natural, accidental or intentional.