Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General, United States Department of Agriculture
Brian Haaser is currently the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Region, Office of Inspector General (OIG), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In this position, he is responsible for managing the investigative program for OIG, in 14 States and the District of Columbia.
Mr. Haaser has been a criminal investigator with OIG, USDA from 1979 to the present. His career began with OIG in its Western Regional Office in San Francisco, California. He was worked in a variety of investigative and supervisory positions throughout the organization and in three different OIG Regions and OIG Headquarters located in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Haaser has extensive experience in conducting and supervising criminal investigations regarding USDA related programs to include feeding programs for the poor; loan and insurance programs for farmers and businesses; regulatory programs affecting the meat and poultry industry, illegal import of agriculture products and pests, and illegal activities involving the grading and wholesomeness of agricultural products; and crimes affecting USDA personnel to include bribery, embezzlement and assault.
He also has investigative experience in the realm of biological issues facing agriculture. He was part of an OIG team that spent 10 days in England (July 2001) during the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak studying the criminal investigative issues associated with such an outbreak, worked with USDA and State agencies on emergency response plans to biological outbreaks affecting agriculture, participated in numerous multi-agency biological farm disaster simulations and assisted in the development of OIG’s biological investigative emergency response team.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s role in a disaster, whether natural or man-made, is to:
- control and eradicate disease and pests of plants, livestock and poultry
- provide fire protection on or adjacent to national forests and assist fire suppression in rural areas
- assure the safety and wholesomeness of food
- procure food for emergency uses and provide disaster assistance through USDA food programs
- mobilize emergency food, feed and water safety facilities throughout the U.S., and support the Federal Response Plan.
The new focus, since September 11, 2001, is to concentrate on preparedness for disasters that are caused by humans. To properly prepare for disasters, several agencies have to become involved.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) becomes involved with the bio-security implications of disasters. The agency must arrest intentional introduction of pests and disease into this country through surveillance of plant and animal populations, inspections and quarantine procedures.
The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) must generate a bio-weapons hazard analysis and critical control points program for each commodity and conduct ongoing research into pathogen dispersal and epidemiological modeling of biological agents of concern. The Office of Inspector General investigates all threats against the United States agricultural infrastructure and sets up regional emergency response teams. Those teams coordinate response with other law enforcement and response agencies.
The types of threats investigated include anthrax, food and mouth disease (FMD), product tampering and introduction of HIV-contaminated blood into the meat supply. Our team spent ten days during the FMD outbreak in Great Britain in February, 2001. We learned a great deal. The British situation demonstrated how critical speed of response to a threat is in controlling a disaster. It took the British 18 days to figure out they were infected with FMD. That permitted infected hogs to go to market, intermingle with other animals of other species, and infect the entire country. At the height of the outbreak, the British had 8,000 people involved in trying to control the outbreak. They operated a war room in order to deal with controlling the movement of people, animals and vehicles, as well as quarantining farm operations and non-farm businesses.
The British disaster reinforced the need for federal-state partnerships in the United States in coping with such disasters. We conduct exercises with the states. When states realize they can’t handle a situation, they can activate the Federal Emergency Response Plan. A recent example is the handling of the Exotic Newcastle Disease outbreak in poultry in the Southwest U.S. in 2003. Even with fast response that got infected animals to the Plum Island, New York diagnostic laboratory over night, 3.2 million chickens had to be destroyed for a clean-up cost of $160 million.
The key to preventing disasters from harming the agricultural infrastructure in the U.S. is vigilance, teamwork and surveillance. Because of the mobility and complexity of U.S. agriculture, an outbreak can spread as fast as it takes a tractor trailer to cross the United States.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.