- ‘Washington DC The Trump administration disbanded the National Security Council’s office in 2018 — and now, on the defensive after a failed response to the coronavirus pandemic, they are planning to launch a similar office at the State Department.The National Security Council hosted an interagency meeting Thursday to discuss the plans for the office, which will fall under the leadership of a new position: coordinator for pandemics, a senior administration official said.The goal of Thursday’s meeting was to flush out the details and establish a proposal for President Donald Trump to approve — but the push to start a new office has drawn criticism from health experts and former officials, some of whom question whether this new unit is being located at the State Department, and not the NSC, simply to differentiate from the Obama administration effort.Officials who had worked on that pandemic response team — the directorate for global health and security and bio-defense — lamented the Trump administration’s move to gut the office, a stance the White House contests, arguing it reassigned staff and streamlined bureaucracy.D
Former officials say the administration could have been better prepared for the pandemic if it had left the original office in place instead of trying to replicate it even as the virus gained new ground. As the US hit a record Wednesday for the highest single day count of new infections, these former officials said having the original unit in place “absolutely” would have made a difference in coordinating a more expedient and effective response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has now cost more than 125,000 American lives.
A daily analysis of US politics for global readers. Lisa Monaco, who served as President Barack Obama’s homeland security adviser and oversaw the creation of the NSC’s global health directorate, told CNN’s New Day on Thursday that the Trump administration’s office “is deja vu all over again.”Health experts, meanwhile, say that the State Department has a crucial role to play in a pandemic response, but the key coordinating role must be played by the White House. Some raised questions about the potential impact that this new office could have on highly successful programs at the US Agency for International Development and the possibility it might drain funding and resources away from them, further hurting global health efforts.The NSC and the State Department did not reply to a request for comment.Monaco pointed out that the Obama administration had deliberately placed the directorate within the National Security Council, which takes policy recommendations from agencies across the government and uses them to advise the President, “because in an epidemic like Ebola, in a pandemic like Covid-19, what you need is a whole of government response and you need swift action. And you need swift decisions from the President, and you need that policy coordinated across the entire government. “This move now to set this