Garza, the current chief medical officer, was asked during his March 29 testimony whether Generation 3 was on track. "My professional opinion is, it's right where it needs to be," he said.
After hearing such assurances, bipartisan majorities of Congress have unfailingly supported additional spending for BioWatch.
The problems inherent in what would become BioWatch appeared early.
In February 2002, scientists and technicians from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory deployed a prototype in and around Salt Lake City in preparation for the Winter Olympics. The scientists were aware that false alarms could "cause immense disruptions and panic" and were determined to prevent them, they later wrote in the lab's quarterly magazine.
Sixteen air samplers were positioned at Olympic venues, as well as in downtown Salt Lake City and at the airport. About 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 12, a sample from the airport's C concourse tested positive for anthrax.
Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt was at an Olympic figure skating competition when the state's public safety director, Bob Flowers, called with the news.
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"He told me that they had a positive lead on anthrax at the airport," Leavitt recalled. "I asked if they'd retested it. He said they had — not just once, but four times. And each time it tested positive."
The Olympics marked the first major international gathering since the Sept. 11, 2001, airliner hijackings and the deadly anthrax mailings that fall.
"It didn't take a lot of imagination to say, 'This could be the real thing,'" Leavitt said.
But sealing off the airport would disrupt the Olympics. And "the federal government would have stopped transportation all over the country," as it had after Sept. 11, Leavitt said.
Leavitt ordered hazardous-materials crews to stand by at the airport, though without lights and sirens or conspicuous protective gear.
"He was ready to close the airport and call the National Guard," recalled Richard Meyer, then a federal scientist assisting with the detection technology at the Olympics.
After consulting Meyer and other officials, Leavitt decided to wait until a final round of testing was completed. By 9 p.m., when the results were negative, the governor decided not to order any further response.
"It was a false positive," Leavitt said. "But it was a live-fire exercise, I'll tell you that."
The implication — that BioWatch could deliver a highly disruptive false alarm — went unheeded.
After the Olympics, Meyer and others who had worked with the air samplers attended meetings at the Pentagon, where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was building a case for rapidly deploying the technology nationwide.
On Jan. 28, 2003, Bush unveiled BioWatch in his State of the Union address, calling it "the nation's first early-warning network of sensors to detect biological attack."