Today the GAO (Government Accountibilty Office) released their findings of an assessment of the Nation’s top 5 BSL 4 Laboratories, “Perimeter Security Assessment of the Nation’s Five BSL-4 Laboratories” the assessment of the facilities was performed from Dec. 2007 through September 2008.

“The AP identified the vulnerable lab locations as Atlanta and San Antonio. The Government Accountability Office did not identify the labs except to say they were classified as Biosafety Level 4 facilities — requiring the highest level of security. But the report included enough details for the AP — and others knowledgeable about such labs — to determine their locations”.

An excerpt from the report:

While three of the BSL-4 labs are privately owned or operated by academic institutions, the other two are owned and operated by the federal government. As requested by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we are not including the names of the five labs in this report for security reasons. Federal law requires all labs be registered with the CDC’s Division of Select Agents and Toxins (DSAT) when handling select agents that pose a severe threat to public health and safety, including BSL-4 agents.

Currently, all five operational BSL-4 labs are registered with the CDC’s Select Agent Program and therefore are regulated by the CDC, not USDA. This registration process requires each lab to develop a security plan that is based on a site-specific risk assessment.According to regulations, the security plan must be sufficient to safeguard against unauthorized theft, loss, or release of select agents. The DSAT inspection is intended to ensure that the labs meet certain safety and security regulations, which vary according to the BSL ranking of the select agent being handled. However, a recent report by HHS’s Office of Inspector General (IG) stated that labs regulated under the DSAT program had weaknesses in such areas as access control and security plan implementation that could have compromised their ability to safeguard select agents from accidental loss or theft.

Read the entire report here