By the Public Affairs and Community Relations Subcommittee
Special to the Standard
It is hard to miss the cranes, construction, and congestion as we arrive at Fort Detrick to start a new work day. The construction of four new laboratory and research facilities within the National Interagency Biodefense Campus has been quite apparent.
However, what is not as visible is the foresight and progress made by seven Federal agencies in building a partnership and collaborative environment here at Fort Detrick known as the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research (NICBR, pronounced "Nick Burr").
The NICBR is a partnership of seven Federal agencies sharing a common vision, "Federal partners working in synergy to achieve a healthier and more secure nation."
The membership includes:
* U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Defense
* National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services
* National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services
* Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture
* Science and Technology Directorate, U. S. Department of Homeland Security
* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services
* U. S. Navy, U. S. Department of DefenseSome NICBR laboratories are physically consolidated on the National Interagency Biodefense Campus.
Essentially, the NIBC includes all NICBR partners except NCI, which maintains its own campus on the Rosemont Avenue side of Fort Detrick.The Fort Detrick Interagency Coordinating Committee is the central hub of the NICBR governance structure, which is chaired by the Fort Detrick U.S. Army Garrison Commander (currently Col. A.J. Darden) and comprised of all NICBR partner representatives.
The FDICC meets twice a month and reports to the Executive Steering Committee, which is chaired by the Commander, U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (currently Maj. Gen. James K. Gilman, commanding general MRMC and Fort Detrick) and comprised of equivalents across the partner agencies, to include Dr. H. Clifford Lane, Dr. Craig Reynolds, Dr. Caird Rexroad, Mr. Jamie Johnson, Dr. Stephen Morse, and Rear Adm. Bruce Doll.The ESC reports to the NICBR Board of Directors, consisting of the Chair, currently Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, and her equivalents across the partnership, to include Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Harold Varmus, Dr. Edward Knipling, Dr. Daniel Gerstein, Dr. Thomas Frieden, and Rear Adm. Matthew Nathan.
The BOD gathers approximately every six months, and while FDICC and ESC meetings take place at Fort Detrick, the BOD rotates its meeting locations and hosts. For example, the summer 2011 meeting was hosted by CDC in Atlanta.Collectively, the NICBR governance bodies provide strategic direction and oversight to ensure that the NICBR mission, "to develop unique knowledge, tools, and products by leveraging advanced technologies and innovative discoveries to secure and defend the health of the American people," is carried out.
To this end, all members of the NICBR embrace the core philosophy of "Trust and Teamwork," which is essential for understanding and respecting differences in each organization.
Reporting to the FDICC are seven subcommittees and two working groups: the Sustainment Subcommittee, the Financial and Business Planning Subcommittee, the Public Affairs and Community Relations Subcommittee, the Security Subcommittee, the Information Management & Information Technology Subcommittee, the Safety & Occupational Health Subcommittee, the Scientific Interaction Subcommittee, the Educational Outreach Working Group, reporting through the PACRS, and the Select Agent Program Working Group, reporting through the SIS.
A unique group in the organizational structure is the NICBR Partnership Office, which provides a staffing function and coordinating center for and under the direction of the FDICC. The NPO works closely with the subcommittees and working groups to facilitate execution of their individual charters and action items handed down by the governance bodies.
Importantly, every NICBR partner provides representatives to each subcommittee, working group, and the NPO to ensure coordinated interagency sharing of best practices and lessons learned.
Decisions at every level of the NICBR are consensus-driven.The goals of the NICBR are to enhance mission effectiveness of mission partners, to optimize NICBR as a sustainable community of scientific excellence while enhancing public trust and support, and to optimize governance to enhance performance.
In support of these goals, the subcommittees and working groups foster interagency collaboration, maximize safety and productivity of biological research and technology development, and minimize duplication of effort, technology, and facilities among the signatories.
These efforts are intended to improve the ability of signatory agencies to conduct research and develop products faster and better at minimum cost.Moreover, this collaborative interagency approach assures the achievement of individual agency goals that cannot be singly accomplished.
As articulated by the founders of the NICBR, "When you, as a scientist, get a new idea and can walk across the street to your neighbor to begin work on it in real time-this is the ultimate scientific collaboration.
"With the NICBR and the NIBC, a new era of interagency collaboration, cooperation and synergy has been established to reach new heights in our scientific and medical endeavors in support of the health, safety and well-being of the American people.
Together, the NICBR partners are building a path forward to achieve a healthier and more secure Nation.