Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report

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The Trump administration is planning to establish a division dedicated to pandemic response at the State Department after facing criticism earlier this year for shuttering the National Security Council’s (NSC) pandemic unit in 2018, according to CNN

NSC officials hosted an interagency meeting Thursday to discuss plans for the new office, according to the news network.

NSC officials did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation from The Hill.

The meeting reportedly centered on hammering out details for the new office and working on a proposal that would require President Trump’s signature for the office’s approval.

The dissolved pandemic response unit, originally named NSC directorate for global health and security and bio-defense, was established by former President Obama during the latter end of his 8-year term. President Trump later shuttered the office in 2018. 

Former Obama administration officials said that while they believed a pandemic response office was needed, it should still reside within the NSC, according to the outlet. 

Former Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco, who served under Obama, said that the Trump administration ran the risk of secluding the office from other government agencies by placing it within the State Department rather than the NSC.

“This move now to set this unit, re-set this unit up, although in a different building, on the one hand is the recognition that you do indeed need a specific identified place to constantly be focusing on pandemic response,” Monaco told CNN.

“That is good. On the other hand, really what we are seeing here is the risk of repeating mistakes all over again.”

“Putting it in State Department, in theory, is a good thing, but it has to be done side by side with something at the White House,” added Steve Morrison, a public health expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in an interview with CNN.

“The White House is about really taking the entire government’s approach and representing the president and restoring the leadership of the White House.”

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has since openly feuded with members of the Trump administration and the president over the release of his memoir since leaving office, defended the administration’s decision to shutter the NSC pandemic office earlier this year.

“Claims that streamlining NSC structures impaired our nation’s bio defense are false. Global health remained a top NSC priority, and its expert team was critical to effectively handling the 2018-19 Africa Ebola crisis. The angry Left just can’t stop attacking, even in a crisis,” Bolton tweeted.

Critics of the move said that it left the U.S. unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 2.7 million in the U.S. as health experts have struggled to get rates of new infections under control.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump John Bolton National Security Council NSC State Department

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