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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Signs Bioterror Act

Aired June 12, 2002 - 10:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live now to the Rose Garden and President Bush.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: September the 11th, the world learned how evil men could use airplanes as weapons of terror. Shortly thereafter, we learned how evil people can use microscopic spores as weapons of terror.

Bioterrorism is a real threat to our country. It's a threat to every nation that loves freedom. Terrorists groups seek biological weapons. We know some rogue states already have them.

It's important that we confront these real threats to our country and prepare for future emergencies.

Protecting our citizens against bioterrorism is an urgent duty of American governments (ph). We must develop the learning, the technology and the health care delivery systems that will allow us to respond to attacks with state-of-the-art medical care throughout our entire country.

I want to thank the members of the United States Congress who are here today, members of both parties who have worked together on this bill.

I appreciate Governor Tom Ridge's hard work, Tommy Thompson and your staff's hard work on this bill. I want to thank Tony Principi and Christie Todd Whitman from the veterans department as well as the EPA for being here and working on this bill.

I appreciate very much Senator Ted Kennedy, the chairman of the Senate Health and Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, for working with Bill Frist. And I want to thank the other cosponsors from the committee who are here.

I appreciate members of the House -- Billy Tauzin and John Dingell -- for combining their talents and experience and energy to get the bill done.

I want to thank Mike Bilirakis, Judd Gregg -- who isn't here -- and all the other members of the Congress to show the American people that, when people of both parties work together, they can do good work on behalf of our country.

I want to thank Elias Zerhouni, who is the director of the National Institution of Health, who is here with us today.

I appreciate your being here, Elias.

Dr. Les Crawford (ph), who is the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, as well as Dr. David Fleming (ph), who is the acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I want to thank you all for being here, as well.

Biological weapons are potentially the most dangerous weapons in the world. Last fall's anthrax attacks, an incredible tragedy to a lot of people in America, and sent a warning that we needed and have heeded. We must be better prepared to prevent, identify and respond. And this bill I'm signing today will help a lot in this essential effort.

First, the bill will enhance our ability to prevent and detect bioterrorist attacks. We must and we will improve inspections of food entering our ports and give officials better tools to contain attacks on our food supply. We'll have new authority to track biological materials anywhere in the United States.

Second, the bill will strengthen the communications networks that link our health care providers with public health authorities. Biological attacks can be carried out quietly. Our health care professionals are likely to be the first to recognize that there has been an attack. The speed with which they detect and respond to a threat to public health could be the difference between containment and catastrophe.

Thirdly, the bill will strengthen the ability of our health care system to expedite treatments across our country. It will provide our state and local health authorities with the resources and tools needed to do their job. And this bill will further development our stockpiles of smallpox vaccines.

Finally, the bill will help us develop better medicines for the future. It reauthorizes and improves the Prescription Drug User Free Act. This will make new lifesaving drugs and therapies available more quickly, and will help ensure the safety and effectiveness of the treatments.

We'll also be able to use the combined research expertise of the government and the private sector to improve our vaccines, our medicines and our diagnostic tests.

Strengthening our protections against bioterror is a part of a larger effort to deal with the new threats of the 21st century. If we're going to succeed, we need to reorganize our government.

And that's why I look forward to working with Congress to create the Department of Homeland Security, to make sure we align authority and responsibility, to make sure that we have an effective response to the enemy that still wants to hit America. This bill today I sign is a part of the process of doing our duty to protect innocent Americans from an enemy that hates America. I'm proud to sign the bill, and I'm proud to welcome the bill's sponsors here to the Rose Garden.

Thank you all very much.

KAGAN: A pat on the back there from Senator Ted Kennedy to President Bush as he goes ahead and he signs the Bioterror Act. The president describing what goes into that, efforts to increase stockpiles of vaccines, improve food inspection across the country and also improve security in water systems among the many things it is to address.

Our White House correspondent, Kelly Wallace, standing by as well to add some more information about what this bill will do -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So Daryn, you heard the president at the very end there, saying that he has worked with Democrats and Republicans to get this bill signed into law, and he said that if you are really going to protect the country from terrorism, you need to reorganize the government, so look for the president to use every opportunity, including this one, to put pressure on lawmakers to pass a bill soon to create this new cabinet level agency, the Department of Homeland Security.

As for this measure, the president has signed into law, and is now walking into the Oval Office. Basically, the goal: better protecting the country from acts of bioterrorism. A couple of components of this bill: calling on the federal government to develop a national strategy to figure out how to prepare and respond to acts of bioterrorism.

Also, it calls for providing a stockpile of vaccines and drugs in the event of any bioterror attacks. Certainly that came to light during the fall, the scare of anthrax, making sure there was enough Cipro on hand to treat anyone that could have been exposed to anthrax. And finally, providing resources and training at state and local governments to help them prepare for the worst, Daryn. And the dollar sign here, $4.3 billion in spending this year and next year. Again, to protect the nation from bioterrorism -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Kelly Wallace at the White House. Thank you so much.

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