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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Federal Agencies Partner With Private Industry for Bioterrorism Vulnerability Assessment

by Jon F. Scheid, Editor
FDA Veterinarian Newsletter November/December 2005 Volume XX, No VI

Four Federal Government agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have created the Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism (SPPA) initiative that allows them to work with industry volunteers and State agricultural and health counterparts to assess the potential risk from terrorist attacks against sectors of the agriculture and food industry. The first joint SPPA initiative exercise was held in December 2005 to examine the vulnerability of export grain elevators. The exercise was conducted at an export elevator outside of New Orleans, LA. Participants in this exercise included volunteers from the grain industry.

The SPPA initiative was first launched in 2005. Participants from FDA are CVM and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). Along with FDA, participants include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Information developed from the exercise will be distributed to other members of the industry to allow them to protect themselves from a potential terrorism attack. Government officials plan to provide periodic classified briefings for industry, State, and Federal partners who have the necessary security clearances and to produce unclassified summary reports that will highlight cross-sector lessons learned and best practices. For security reasons, information from the final report disclosing a potential vulnerability will not be publicly released.

To conduct the evaluation, the SPPA team runs what is called a “CARVER+Shock” analysis, a tool that analysts use to determine the desirability of a target to terrorists. “It allows you to think like an attacker by identifying the most attractive targets for -attack,” according to Donald A. -Kautter, Jr., a counterterrorism specialist with -CFSAN.

CARVER is an acronym of:

  • Criticality – what effect would the attack have on public health or the economy?
  • Accessibility – can a potential terrorist get to and from the target easily?
  • Recuperability – does the target have the ability to recover from the attack?
  • Vulnerability – how easily can a terrorist attack the facility?
  • Effect – what would be the direct loss from an attack, measured in terms of lost production?
  • Recognizability – how easily would a terrorist recognize that a facility would make a good target?

The “shock” part of the evaluation is a combination of health, economic, and psychological effects of an attack. In other words, this part of the review is an analysis of how of much of a psychological jolt an attack would cause.

FDA and USDA have used the CARVER+Shock assessment tool to evaluate the potential vulnerabilities of farm-to-table supply chains for various food commodities. Under SPPA, the tool is adapted to individual companies or commodity groups, according to Mr. Kautter.

Conducting an evaluation

Industry participants in SPPA initiative evaluations are volunteers. A trade association recruited the export elevator and other export grain companies that participated in the December evaluation.

Companies that volunteer to participate in an SPPA review get, as part of the process, free training in conducting a CARVER+Shock analysis and a better understanding of their vulnerabilities, Mr. Kautter said.

Once the volunteer and the commodity food group have been selected  the date for an evaluation is set, and the advance logistical and administrative arrangements begin.

When the date for the evaluation arrives, a team made up of government and industry representatives goes to the site to begin the 2- to 5-day evaluation. The team typically includes representatives from FDA, USDA, DHS, FBI, and State departments of public health and agriculture. The industry is represented by officials of the participating company, five or six executives from other, similar companies, and representatives of the responsible trade association.

The agenda for the visit includes a review of the design flow diagram of the production process at the site, a CARVER+Shock analysis, and an assessment of the site’s vulnerabilities. After the analysis, the team identifies mitigation steps and information gaps that need more research to address.

The SPPA initiative has several technical goals, but the overall aim is for private industry participants and government officials as well as State counterparts to better understand vulnerabilities and identify mitigation steps for industry subsectors. Government specialists use the findings from the assessments, such as the export grain elevator review in December, to create lessons learned and best practices that can be applied to other companies within the subsector, and to improve the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, which is a blueprint of ways to protect against terrorism within the 17 critical infrastructures and key resources.

Another, broader goal is the establishment or strengthening of a working relationship including Federal, State, and local governments and private sector companies.

Feed manufacturers recruited

The SPPA assessment at the export elevator was one of many evaluations that the Federal agencies want to accomplish. The four government agencies have identified more than 60 other types food and agriculture facilities for analysis under SPPA, including animal feed manufacturers (which the officials hope to do next); animal byproduct manufacturers; corn refiners; beef cattle feedlots; poultry farms; cereal manufacturers; fluid milk and infant formula manufacturers; and produce processors.

The government SPPA team is currently looking for a feed industry volunteer for the next analysis. It would be conducted in much the same way as the grain export elevator assessment, Mr. Kautter said.

Agricultural companies that would like to participate in an SPPA evaluation can contact their representative trade association or can get more information on the SPPA page of FDA’s website, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/agroterr.html.