(Released 3 September 2015) Washington, D.C. - Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh has directed an immediate safety review at all nine Department of Defense labs and facilities involved in the production, shipment, and handling of live and inactivated select agents and toxins.
The review follows the discovery of evidence of anthrax contamination in secure areas located outside the primary containment area but still contained within the special enclosed lab for holding these materials at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. In accordance with established procedures, the Army reported this finding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It also follows findings by the CDC of incorrect or incomplete record keeping at Edgewood and USAMRIID.
This evidence of contamination was discovered during the ongoing investigation at Dugway that followed a Department of Defense comprehensive review of all policies, procedures and processes affecting the use and shipment of anthrax.
In response, the Dugway commander immediately directed a full decontamination of the biosafety area. The facility was retested and anthrax was not detected.
There is no evidence of exposure to employees and there was no risk to the general public at any time.
The Secretary of the Army is the Executive Agent for DoD Biological Select Agent and Toxin Biosafety program and acted out of an abundance of caution.
The safety review ensures labs will follow appropriate protocols for handling materials, including proper training, record-keeping, and standard operating procedures. Each lab will report back on its findings within ten days.
Additionally, the Army has expanded the existing suspension of production, handling, testing, and shipment of Anthrax to include Critical Reagents Program (CRP) and other agents and toxins. This suspension applies at all four DoD labs involved in these activities: Dugway Proving Ground Life Sciences Test Facility, Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and the Naval Medical Research Center Biological Defense Research Directorate.
These measures will remain in place pending completion of the ongoing review and investigation until the Army determines it is appropriate to resume operations. Specific exemptions to this policy will be judiciously reviewed and approved only in appropriate circumstances by the Secretary of the Army.
A copy of the Secretary of the Army’s safety review directive can be found here.