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Authorities admit anthrax miscalculation

Washington Post

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department is changing how it handles biohazard threats, acknowledging that internal breakdowns delayed its response to a March 14 anthrax scare at the Pentagon and nearby office buildings, confused the rest of the federal government and alarmed state and local public health workers, officials said.

Under fire for gaps with civilian bioterrorism detection and response systems, officials said they will quicken reporting of test results from biological sensors around their Arlington, Va., headquarters to no more than 24 hours and shift away from contract labs.

Defense officials acknowledged the need to align lab-test protocols with those used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They agreed they should coordinate with local health officials when ordering emergency medical treatment for defense workers.

Pentagon representatives discussed the steps Friday during an “after-action” review chaired by Thomas Lockwood, national capital region coordinator for the Department of Homeland Security. Staff from the White House, FBI, Health and Human Services Department and Postal Service attended.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff ordered the review after alerts in two military mailrooms shut the main delivery center at the Pentagon, disrupted mail delivery to U.S. government offices and put 900 workers in several buildings on antibiotics for three days.

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