In the year 2001, shortly after the events of 9/11, letters containing anthrax spores appeared in the offices of senators and news outlets. The nation was scared, but within 12 hours, medical countermeasures were rushed, under armed guard by US Marshals, to New York City and Washington, DC—the sites of what was later described as an anthrax terrorist attack.

A few years later, in 2005, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, medical equipment and supplies were immediately dispatched to the scene in “12-hour push packages,” or pre-configured caches of 130 containers of antibiotics, oxygen tubing, and syringes—enough to fill a widebody plane’s belly. This scenario was repeated after Superstorm Sandy.

In each case, the cavalry that came to the rescue was a $7 billion agency, operating largely below the radar, from 5-story-high warehouses in undisclosed locations outside of Washington, DC.

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