Trump team failed to follow NSC’s pandemic playbook

“Each section of this game book contains specific questions that should be asked and decisions that should be made at multiple levels,” the game book in the national security apparatus urges and repeatedly advises officials to question the virus distribution figures to ensure and verify adequate diagnostic capabilities on the U.S. reserve of emergency resources.

The game book also emphasizes the White House’s significant responsibility to contain the risk of potential pandemics. This is in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s delays in implementing a general government response and the recent signals from President Donald Trump that it could withdraw public health recommendations.

“The US government will use all of its powers to prevent, slow, or mitigate the spread of an emerging infectious disease threat,” said the game book’s “Assumptions” to Fight Future Threats. “The American public will contact the US government to take action when multi-state or other important events occur.”

The guide also calls for a “unified message” on the federal response to best address the questions and concerns of the American public. “Early coordination of risk communication by a single federal spokesman is crucial,” says the playbook. However, the US response to the corona virus included a changing cast of speakers and conflicting news. Trump is already discussing easing government recommendations on the corona virus to “open” the economy by Easter despite objections from public health advisors.

The NSC developed the guide for 2016 – officially referred to as a playbook for the early response to emerging threats from infectious diseases and biological incidents, but colloquially referred to as the “pandemic playbook”. The project was promoted by both officials and politicians nominated individuals who are aware that the world’s leading politicians had initially distorted their response to the spread of Ebola in 2014-2015 and wanted to be sure that the next response to an epidemic would be better handled.

The Trump administration was informed of the existence of the game book in 2017, four former officials said, but two warned that it never went through a full interagency process, led by the National Security Council, to be approved as a Trump management strategy. Tom Bossert, who was Trump’s homeland security advisor at the time, was excited about his potential as part of the government’s broader pandemic strategy, two former officials said.

Bossert declined to comment on a specific document, but told POLITICO: “I actively looked at my outgoing colleague and took their transition materials and recommendations for preparing for pandemics seriously.”

The game book was designed “so that little effort would be given to trying to wage the next public health struggle,” said a former official who contributed to the game book, warning that “the mist of war” was missing in the gaps Strategies.

“These are recommended discussions at all levels to ensure that there is a structure in which decisions can be made in real time,” said a second former official.

An NPC official confirmed the existence of the game book, but declined its value. “We are aware of the document, although it is fairly outdated and has been replaced by the strategic and operational guidelines on biological defense published since then,” said the official. “The plan we are now implementing fits better and is more detailed, applying the relevant lessons from the game book and the recent Ebola epidemic in the EU [Democratic Republic of the Congo] to COVID-19. “

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health also said that the NSC game book is not part of the current coronavirus strategy. “The response from HHS COVID-19 was provided, among other things, by recent plans such as the establishment of the National Biodefense Strategy (2018), Biological Incident Annex (2017) and panCAP (2018), among others, by the CDC, White House Task, Force, FEMA and other key federal departments and agencies, ”said the spokesman.

Trump has said his government could not have foreseen the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread to all 50 states and more than 180 nations, making more than 460,000 people sick around the world. “Nobody ever expected anything like this,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday.

But Trump’s aides should expect a possible pandemic, ranging from a table exercise that the outgoing Obama administration had prepared for the president’s incoming aides to a “Purple contagionScenario that health officials only undertaken last year and modeled the potential risks of a global threat from infectious diseases. Trump’s MPs have also said that their coronavirus response is based on a federal game book that specifically relates to a strategy set out by the Centers for Disease Control.

It is not clear whether the administration’s failure to follow the NPC game book was the result of an oversight or an intentional decision to take a different course.

The document was held by NSC officials dealing with preventive medicine and biological defense in the global health security directorate that the Trump administration dissolved in 2018, four former officials said. The document was originally supervised by Beth Cameron, a former official who headed the board of directors before leaving the White House in March 2017. Cameron confirmed to POLITICO that the executive had created a playbook for NSC staff to help officials deal with a number of potential biological threats.

But under the Trump administration, “it was just a document people were working on that was dumped on a shelf,” said a former US official who worked in both the Obama and Trump administrations . “It’s hard to say how many senior agency executives knew this existed,” or thought it was just another layer of unnecessary red tape.

The NPC game book would have been particularly useful in driving the government’s response to the corona virus, as it was designed to guide urgent decisions and coordinate the state-of-the-art approach that Trump has so far been unable to achieve, the said with the document.

The color-coded game book contains various sections based on relative risk – green for normal operations, yellow for increased threats, orange for credible threats and red for reporting a public health emergency – and details of the possible roles of Dozens of departments and agencies. from key players such as the Health and Human Services Department to the Department of Transportation to the FBI. It also contains sample documents to use to coordinate meetings.

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