By: John H. Cochrane
A lovely compilation from Judge Glock. Some excerpts
six months before the current outbreak, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019, which offered funds and planning authority for just such a crisis as we now face. This act was a reauthorization and an extension of half a dozen similar acts passed over the previous two decades, which acts were themselves extended in countless congressional spending bills, all of which resulted in countless plans….
Pervasive Pandemic Preparedness Planning
After the avian influenza scare of 2005, Congress did the thing it does best, demand that somebody else come up with a plan. With the help of some of the best known names is Congress, Congress passed the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act in December of the following year. The act ordered the administration to convene a Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Policy Coordinating Committee, with most of the Cabinet in attendance, to write a plan for a biological catastrophe. The result was, first, a White House Homeland Security Council National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, followed the next year by National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan. The latter plan contained 233 pages of nebulous suggestions, such as recommending that, in a crisis, the government should be “providing anticipatory guidance and dispelling unrealistic expectations about the delivery of health and medical care.” These general plans in turn birthed numerous individual departments plan, such as the Department of Defense Implementation Plan for Pandemic Influenza. To supplement these federal plans, the Preparedness Act, and its subsequent iterations, also mandated that states create their own Pandemic Preparedness Plans, which have to be submitted regularly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for approval. These plans total thousands of pages.
Even before the 2006 act passed, however, the Department of Health and Human Services decided to issue its own Pandemic Influenza Plan, in 2005, and it issued one again 2009, and again in 2017, with similar vague exhortations. The subsequent versions of the plan contain no discussion of the National Strategies upon which the Coordinating Committee labored so diligently.
…After 9/11, the government began writing regular National Response Frameworks, published by the Department of Homeland Security, on how to deal with any national emergency, including a biological attack or pandemic. … Another of the annexes birthed from the Framework was, of course, a specific Biological Incident Annex. The Annex claims that it “serves as the Federal organizing framework for responding and recovering from a range of biological threats,” although what the other plans do is therefore made unclear.
the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), apparently on its own initiative, created a National Health Security Strategy for the United States in 2009, with updates in 2015 and 2019, describing responses to pandemic and infectious disease outbreaks. Surprisingly, the plan contains no reference to the hundreds of pages of pandemic planning from other departments, or even from other plans written by HHS itself. 
…the more comprehensive National Security Strategy, issued by the White House National Security Council, which itself also includes plans to deal with an epidemic, and demands the government “detect and contain biothreats at their source.” But the White House also issued numerous specific plans to deal with biological threats outside of the so-called NHSS and the NSS. As a sampling, there was the 2006 Homeland Security Presidential Directive-10, “Biodefense for the 21st Century,” and the 2009 National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats (featuring the peerless “Objective Seven,” which demanded that the government “Transform the international dialogue on biological threats”) and the 2016 National Security Council’s Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Infectious Disease. In the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, Congress mandated that the White House convene a group of interagency officials to write a specific National Biodefense Strategy, which was released to understandably little fanfare the following year. The strategy offers such inimitable insights as “Biological Threats Originate from Multiple Sources,” including “naturally occurring outbreaks.” Its relation to previous pandemic plans is not clear, since none of them are cited. 
My highlights as that seems particularly relevant. The authors of these plans aren’t even reading each others’ plans, and possibly not even aware of them!
It goes on like this. Judge has meditations on how all these plans should be turned in to action, including suggestions for centralization. I’m not sure that reorganizations are the key. Rather, these plans all stopped short of implementation. How many masks do we need? Where do we buy them? Who is in charge of shutting down air travel? This sort of thing needs to be implemented and then practiced, just as your grade school had fire drills.
But certainly my previous impression that we had no plans and needed to create one was false in the extreme.
My favorite scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark
We have top people working on it. Top.
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