Trump Administration Faces COVID-19 Pandemic Without NSC Global Health Security Team; Pandemic Preparedness Faltered Across Four Administrations, Experts Say

Los Angeles Times: Trump administration is battling coronavirus without a war room
“…In the U.S., the pandemic preparedness team at the White House’s National Security Council (NSC) was tracking [the virus H7N9] daily, even as President Trump took office in those early days of 2017. The NSC team, called the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, had helmed the country’s preparations for months, coordinating health agencies, the State Department, and even the Pentagon to prepare for its spread to the U.S. … Less than three years later, its successor — the novel coronavirus — broke out. But by then the directorate had been dismantled by the Trump administration. … It is unclear how the outbreak would have played out if the group had still been intact. But without a team that was trained to handle just such a pandemic — drawing on their experiences from SARS in 2002; H1N1 in 2009; Ebola in 2014; Zika in 2016 — the United States was left without a vital rudder, experts and former NSC officials said…” (Baumgaertner, 4/6).

Roll Call: White House preparedness for pandemic threat has faltered across four presidencies
“…[A] variety of longtime experts in disaster response who spoke to CQ Roll Call warn that the country risks missing some of the lessons from what is the largest public health crisis in a century if opprobrium is heaped solely at Trump’s feet. Rather, they say, there is blame to be shared, going back decades through multiple presidencies and on both sides of the political aisle. Blind spots in the U.S. national security culture led to the earliest signs of the crisis being downplayed, exactly when an inter-agency process centered in the White House should have been shifting into high gear. To avoid such a bureaucratic failure again will mean permanently elevating disaster preparedness and response to a footing similar to that given to more traditional bastions of U.S. security such as diplomacy, intelligence collection, and the military, experts say…” (Oswald, 4/7).

Additional coverage of the White House and lawmakers’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic is available from Fox News, NPR, and USA TODAY.

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