AMENDMENT NO. 406 Offered by Mr. Zeldin of New York

Floor Speech

Date: July 20, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, first of all, I thank Mac Thornberry for his tremendous and exemplary work in Congress, especially for all things related to the military. What a tremendous chairman, now serving as ranking member. I thank him for that service.

Mr. Speaker, last year, I was joined by my friend and colleague, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, to offer an amendment to the NDAA to task the Pentagon IG to probe whether ticks were ever weaponized with Lyme disease or any other dangerous pathogen. Our legislation passed the House but died in the Senate. I was told that the IG did not have sufficient capacity or bandwidth to investigate.

So, tonight, the new Smith-Peterson amendment instead tasks the GAO with that job.

Mr. Speaker, for years, books and articles have been written credibly asserting that significant research at Fort Detrick, Plum Island, and elsewhere was conducted to turn ticks into bioweapons.

In her book, ``Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons,'' Kris Newby includes interviews with Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, the researcher who is credited with discovering Lyme disease. It turns out that Dr. Burgdorfer was a bioweapons specialist.

The interviews, combined with access to Dr. Burgdorfer's files, reveal that he and other bioweapons specialists stuffed ticks with pathogens in a quest to cause severe disability, disease, and death.

Mr. Speaker, with Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases exploding in the United States, an estimated 300,000 to 427,000 new cases each year, and 10 to 20 percent of those people with chronic Lyme disease, Americans have a right to know whether or not any of this is true.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of questions that we ask in the amendment, but the most important question of all: Can any of the information that might be gleaned from a GAO study help current-day researchers find a way to mitigate and, hopefully, cure Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases?

Mr. Speaker, the amendment tasks GAO to ask the hard questions. I, again, thank my good friend for his leadership.


Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Speaker, I support en bloc package No. 2, and I yield back the balance of my time.