The CDC’s “Strategic National Stockpile” of medical supplies maintains secret warehouses of approximately $7 billion in materials to be used in a national health emergency.
When Greg Burel tells people he’s in charge of some secret government warehouses, he often gets asked if they’re like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Ark of the Covenant gets packed away in a crate and hidden forever.
“Well, no, not really,” says Burel, director of a program called the Strategic National Stockpile at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thousands of lives might someday depend on this stockpile, which holds all kinds of medical supplies that the officials would need in the wake of a terrorist attack with a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon.
The location of these warehouses is secret. How many there are is secret. (Although a former government official recently said at a public meeting that there are six.) And exactly what’s in them is secret.
“If everybody knows exactly what we have, then you know exactly what you can do to us that we can’t fix,” says Burel. “And we just don’t want that to happen.”
What he will reveal is how much the stockpile is worth: “We currently value the inventory at a little over $7 billion.”
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