Digital News Report – WASHINGTON, DC – Today U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) and John Ensign (R-NV) introduced a bipartisan bill that would formally establish a Chief Veterinary Officer in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The bill strengthens DHS’ food defense and agricultural security capacity and ability to respond to a crisis related to veterinary health by ensuring that there is a veterinary leader within the Department who is fully prepared and empowered to respond. The bill specifies formal qualifications and responsibilities for the Chief Veterinary Officer, and does not create an additional layer of management within DHS.
Senator Akaka said: “I remain concerned about our nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to agricultural disasters, such as a catastrophic foreign animal disease outbreak. Such an incident could have far-reaching effects, threatening our food supply and our health and harming both domestic commerce and international trade. The Department of Homeland Security must be fully prepared to respond to such an incident. Putting a Chief Veterinary Officer in charge will help DHS address these challenges.”
Senator Ensign said: “As the Senate’s only veterinarian, I understand the threat that a veterinary health crisis could pose to our national security. A Chief Veterinary Officer at the DHS would ensure that the agency charged with protecting our freedom here at home has the right person in place to appropriately manage such an event.”
Representatives Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) and Mike Rogers (R-AL) introduced a companion bill in the House on April 21.
Senators Akaka and Ensign are members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Akaka is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia. Ensign is Ranking Member of the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration.