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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Frequently Asked Questions: National Biodefense Strategy

  1. What is biodefense?
  2. What is a biothreat?
  3. What are the goals of the National Biodefense Strategy?
  4. What’s new about this strategy?
  5. Is implementing the National Biodefense Strategy a priority for the administration?
  6. Why do we need a new strategy?
  7. What is the relationship between the National Security Strategy and the National Biodefense Strategy?
  8. What are the main priorities of the National Security Strategy in relation to biodefense?
  9. What is One Health and why does the Strategy promote a One Health approach to biodefense?
  10. Which departments will implement the National Biodefense Strategy?
  11. Why does the strategy include international engagement?
  12. Why does the Strategy include natural outbreaks?
  13. Does the Strategy make use of the United States’ innovation leadership?
  14. How does the U.S.  National Biodefense Strategy differ from the upcoming U.S. Global Health Security Strategy?
  15. What is the relationship between the U.S. National Biodefense Strategy and the Global Health Security Agenda?


  1. What is biodefense?
  2. Biodefense is defined as those actions designed to counter biological threats, reduce risks, and prepare for, respond to, and recover from bioincidents.

    Biodefense incorporates a wide range of activities, including biosurveillance, threat monitoring and awareness, biological arms control and nonproliferation, counterterrorism, biosafety and biosecurity, the development of medical countermeasures, medical planning and preparedness, and response and recovery activities. The National Biodefense Strategy provides a framework for coordinating these diverse activities across federal departments and agencies.

  3. What is a biothreat?
  4. The strategy defines a biothreats as an entity involved with, or a situation involving, a biohazard that can potentially cause a bioincidents.

  5. What are the goals of the National Biodefense Strategy?
  6. The National Biodefense Strategy brings together and puts in place for the first time, a single coordinated effort to orchestrate the full range of activities carried out across the United States government to protect the American people from biological threats.

    Key goals of the National Biodefense Strategy are to:

    • Enable risk awareness to inform decision-making across the biodefense enterprise;
    • Ensure biodefense enterprise capabilities to prevent bioincidents;
    • Ensure biodefense enterprise preparedness to reduce the impacts of bioincidents;
    • Rapidly respond to limit the impacts of bioincidents;
    • Facilitate recovery to restore the community, the economy, and the environment after a bioincident;

  7. What’s new about this strategy?
  8. Many things are new and unique about this strategy. The strategy puts in place, for the first time, a coordinated effort to orchestrate the full range of activity carried out across the U.S. government to protect the American people from biothreats. With this strategy, the Trump Administration also is naming the first leader to coordinate biodefense across the federal government.

    The strategy and Presidential Memorandum contain a mechanism for coordinating the full range of biodefense activities with the annual budget process.

    The strategy also is the first U.S. national strategy to include naturally occurring biothreats in a coordinated national biodefense effort.

  9. Is implementing the National Biodefense Strategy a priority for the administration?
  10. Yes, the National Biodefense Strategy is of high priority for the administration. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 directed the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of Agriculture to jointly develop a national biodefense strategy and associated biodefense policies, practices, programs and initiatives. The administration is committed to strengthening the nation’s ability to respond to biological incidents.

    The National Security Presidential Memorandum in support for national biodefense provides a mechanism to assist with and ensure the implementation of the National Biodefense Strategy.

    The presidential memorandum takes the following initial steps:

    • It directs federal departments and agencies to implement the National Biodefense Strategy;
    • It sets timelines and expectations regarding progress reports and updates to the National Biodefense Strategy;
    • It delineates specifies roles and responsibilities regarding the National Biodefense Strategy;
    • It emphasizes and provides additional direction related to the governance of the biodefense enterprise.

  11. Why do we need a new strategy
  12. In 2009, the Obama administration released the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats that addressed deliberate use of biological weapons. Over time, progress was made in guiding the nation in an all-hazards approach to preventing, responding to, and recovering from threats including deliberate acts, natural disasters and other man-made incidents. In light of the progress that has been made as well as the changing threat landscape, it is time to refocus and adjust our biodefense programs and priorities.

    In the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017, Congress requested the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture to jointly develop and execute a comprehensive National Biodefense Strategy. The National Biodefense Strategy will provide a strategic context for biodefense activities across the federal government.

    Together with today’s National Security Presidential Memorandum, the National Biodefense Strategy is a unique mechanism for bringing the interagency together to coordinate a wide range of biodefense activities. The presidential memorandum lays out a process for linking our biodefense capabilities to the annual budget process, to ensure that we make progress in addressing these challenges.

  13. What is the relationship between the National Security Strategy and the National Biodefense Strategy?
  14. Both the National Security Strategy and the National Biodefense Strategy aim to protect the American homeland and the American people. The current National Security Strategy, released in December 2017, identifies four vital national interests or pillars:

    1. Protect the homeland, the American people, and American way of life
    2. Promote American prosperity
    3. Preserve peace through strength
    4. Advance American influence


    In addition to protecting our national interests, the National Security Strategy addresses the challenges that stand in the way, including biothreats and pandemics.

    The National Biodefense Strategy focuses specifically on biodefense, as a small part of the broader National Security Strategy. The goals and objectives of the National Biodefense Strategy are in alignment with and support the larger National Security Strategy.

  15. What are the main priorities of the National Security Strategy in relation to biodefense?
  16. Each of these priorities in the National Security Strategy is incorporated into the National Biodefense Strategy.

    • Detect and contain biothreats at their source
      • The United States is dedicated to working with international partners in early detection to prevent the spread of disease and ensure laboratories are well prepared in handling dangerous pathogens.
    • Support biomedical innovation
      • The National Security Strategy supports the strengthening of the intellectual property system that is foundation of the biomedical industry.
    • Support biomedical innovation
      • The National Security Strategy supports the strengthening of the intellectual property system that is foundation of the biomedical industry.
    • Improve emergency response
      • We will strengthen our emergency response and unified coordination systems to rapidly characterize outbreaks, implement public health containment measures to limit the spread of disease, and provide surge medical care.

  17. What is One Health and why does the Strategy promote a One Health approach to biodefense?
  18. The health of people, animals, and plants, and the viability of ecosystems are linked. Threats to animals, plants, and ecosystems health can cause economic disruption or physical harm to health and wellbeing. One Health, collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally, is a best practice for understanding, communicating, and mitigating biothreats swiftly and efficiently. For example 60 percent of infectious disease threats to human health emanate from other animals, plants, and/or the ecosystems that we inhabit. The Strategy recognizes that a collaborative, multi-sectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach to the biodefense enterprise is necessary to effectively intervene early to prevent threats from emerging or spreading.

  19. Which departments will implement the National Biodefense Strategy?
  20. The National Biodefense Strategy was developed as part of a broad interagency effort that included all federal departments and agencies involved in biodefense activities, as well as input from non-federal stakeholders. The following departments and agencies will implement the strategy:

    • Department of Agriculture
    • Department of Commerce
    • Department of Defense
    • Department of Energy
    • Department of Health and Human Services
    • Department of Homeland Security
    • Department of the Interior
    • Department of Justice
    • Department of Labor
    • Department of State
    • Department of Transportation
    • Department of the Treasury
    • Department of Veterans Affairs
    • Environmental Protection Agency
    • Intelligence Community
    • U.S. Agency for International Development

  21. Why does the strategy include international engagement?
  22. TThe strategy recognizes that natural outbreaks pose significant threats; infectious disease threats can endanger lives and quickly disrupt economies, trade, and travel. Outbreaks anywhere in the world can rapidly spread through international travel and imperil U.S. citizens’ health, security, and prosperity and U.S. interests at home and abroad. The Strategy also recognizes that effective detection and response capabilities to any biothreat benefit from integration with natural outbreak systems.

  23. Why does the Strategy include natural outbreaks?
  24. The strategy recognizes that natural outbreaks pose significant threats; infectious disease threats can endanger lives and quickly disrupt economies, trade, and travel. Outbreaks anywhere in the world can rapidly spread through international travel and imperil U.S. citizens’ health, security, and prosperity and U.S. interests at home and abroad. The Strategy also recognizes that effective detection and response capabilities to any biothreat benefit from integration with natural outbreak systems.

  25. Does the Strategy make use of the United States’ innovation leadership?
  26. The nature of biothreats are rapidly changing as are the tools available to address them. To ensure that the United States is poised to meet the evolving biorisk landscape, the strategy promotes innovation throughout the biodefense enterprise. This includes innovative technologies and systems; encouraging innovative technology communities and industry leaders to take on targeted biodefense and health capacity needs; linking stakeholders with innovative ideas, tools, and products; and pursuing innovative approaches and partnerships to achieve, at home and abroad, desired end states articulated in the strategy.

  27. How does the U.S. National Biodefense Strategy differ from the upcoming U.S. Global Health Security Strategy?
  28. The U.S. National Biodefense Strategy (NBS) and the Global Health Security Strategy (GHSS) are critical national-level commitments to better protect the United States and partners around the world. The GHSS supports realization of the Strategy goals and objectives focused on promoting capacity to preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease threats at their source.

  29. What is the relationship between the U.S. National Biodefense Strategy and the Global Health Security Agenda?
  30. The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is a critical tool promoting global health security end states called for in the Strategy. Launched in 2014 and renewed in 2018, GHSA serves as a catalyst for progress toward the vision of attaining a world safe and secure from global health threats posed by infectious diseases. It is a collaborative, multi-sectoral initiative, bringing together countries, regions, international organizations, and the non-governmental sector (including the private sector) to accelerate and optimize global health security.

Watch, Listen and Learn

YouTube: National Biodefense Strategy
  • This page last reviewed: September 18, 2018