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Monday, July 30, 2007

DOD Could Improve Pandemic Flu Preparedness, Audit Finds

An influenza pandemic could impair the military’s readiness, jeopardize ongoing military operations abroad, and threaten the day-to-day functioning of the Department of Defense (DOD) due to a large percentage of sick or absent personnel, according to a recent federal report.

Each of DOD’s nine combatant commands (COCOMs) has established or intends to establish a working group to prepare for an influenza pandemic, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds in a recent report. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress.

Additionally, eight of the nine COCOMs have developed or are developing a pandemic influenza plan. Half of the COCOMs have conducted exercises to test their pandemic influenza plans and several are taking steps to address lessons learned. Five of the nine COCOMs have started to use various media, training programs, and outreach events to inform their personnel about pandemic influenza. Each of the geographic COCOMs has worked or plans to work with nations in its area of responsibility to raise awareness about and assess capabilities for responding to avian and pandemic influenza, according to the GAO study.

GAO recommends that DOD take steps to clarify the COCOMs’ roles and responsibilities for pandemic influenza-related efforts, identify the sources and types of resources needed for the COCOMs to accomplish these efforts, and develop options to mitigate the effects of factors that are outside of their control. DOD concurred with each of these recommendations, GAO says.

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