Did President Trump Dissolve the Pandemic Response Office? | Citizens Against Government Waste

Did President Trump Dissolve the Pandemic Response Office?

The WasteWatcher

We have heard a lot about how President Trump “dissolved” the office in charge of pandemic preparedness.  Tim Morrison, who was the former senior director for the counterproliferation and biodefense team within the National Security Council (NSC), discussed what really happened in his March 16 Washington Post  Op-Ed.  He criticized politicians that have accused President Trump and former-National Security Advisor John Bolton of disbanding the biodefense office.  Morrison says of the allegation, “Because I led the very directorate assigned that mission, the counterproliferation and biodefense office, for a year and then handed it off to another official who still holds the post, I know the charge is specious.”  He says even though it is an election year, politicians should not be making biased accusations during a health emergency like the coronavirus pandemic.

Morrison joined the NSC in 2018 and inherited a team of “strong and skilled staff” within the counterproliferation and biodefense office.  He cites how this group of experts drafted the National Biodefense Strategy of 2018, which included an executive order “to modernize influenza vaccines; and coordinated the United States’ response to the Ebola epidemic in Congo, which was ultimately defeated in 2020.”  The National Biodefense Strategy was announced by President Trump on September 18, 2018.

He admits that the administration decreased the size of the NSC staff because the “bloat that occurred under the previous administration clearly needed a correction.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates, congressional oversight committees and members of the Obama administration itself all agreed the NSC was too large and too operationally focused (a departure from its traditional role coordinating executive branch activity).”  He pointed out that the Washington Post reported in 2015 that from “the Clinton administration to the Obama administration’s second term, the NSC’s staff ‘had quadrupled in size, to nearly 400 people.’  That is why Trump began streamlining the NSC staff in 2017.”

Morrison discusses one thing the NSC did was to reorganize and create the counterproliferation and biodefense directorate, which merged several offices into one because of the overlap of arms control, terrorism, and global biodefense.  He stated, “It is this reorganization that critics have misconstrued or intentionally misrepresented.  If anything, the combined directorate was stronger because related expertise could be commingled.”

He said although the reduction in force in the NSC continued after he departed, “it has left the biodefense staff unaffected -- perhaps a recognition of the importance of that mission to the president, who, after all, in 2018 issued a presidential memorandum to finally create real accountability in the federal government’s expansive biodefense system.”

Morrison said the current staffing level of the NSC is up to the job of getting the president what he needs to make tough decisions and to make sure the decisions are implemented.  He said, “when people play politics in the middle of a crisis, we are all less safe.  We are less safe because public servants are distracted when they are dragged into politics.  We’re less safe because the American people have been recklessly scared into doubting the competence of their government to help keep them safe, secure and healthy.”

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