Oh My God!
Trumps administration completely stopped the PREDICT program that did USAID training and response world-wide for pandemics. Since the Bird Flu of 2005 (H5N1), the US presidents (Bush II and Obama) have moved toward building a program to identify potential pandemics and to help countries (including the USA) deal with such an eventuality. Of course, the PREDICT program got to deal with several pandemic-type events including SARS, MERS, Ebola and even Zika (mosquito). The idea, which apparently worked very well, is to fight a pandemic where it originates in other countries, so that you don’t have to fight it here in the USA. Of course, the train-the-trainer program would be developed and applied here in the USA.
Foreign aid through the US Agency of International Development (USAID) was frozen by the first few days of August 2019 (Trump administration freezes foreign aid funds pending review). The money of $2B to $4B that was unspent was to be frozen. An obvious indication that the aid programs and the employees associated with them were moving to temporary status. The end of PREDICT was predicted.
Donald McNeil discusses the closure of the PREDICT program in October 25, 2019:
“The program, known as Predict and run by the United States Agency for International Development, was inspired by the 2005 H5N1 bird flu scare. Launched 10 years ago, the project has cost about $207 million.
The initiative has collected over 140,000 biological samples from animals and found over 1,000 new viruses, including a new strain of Ebola. Predict also trained about 5,000 people in 30 African and Asian countries, and has built or strengthened 60 medical research laboratories, mostly in poor countries.”McNeil, October 25, 2019
A letter to the USDA Administrator Mark Andrew Green summarizes, with footnotes, the phantom shutdown of the PREDICT program in 2019, with the promise of “something” to replace it going out for bid. The letter of Jan 30, 2020 by Senators Warren and King documents and articulates the key questions that arise for killing off this program to deal with pandemics. The senators’ full letter can be read HERE. [Yes, I know, they are mouthy Democrats, but check their footnotes. Footnotes in a letter!?]
In a prior ScenarioPlans blog post, the question was posed: How is it possible that we in the USofA did not have early warning signposts about the COVID-19 back in November or December of 2019? Pandemic Scenario in Trump Transition Team, Days before Office. A practice drill on a hypothetical pandemic scenario was apparently wasted on the incoming Trump transition team.
The Real Donald Trump admiration in action has systematically pared back government organizations and killed off the scientists. Here’s what two past scientist, former undersecretaries of research, education and economics, say about Trumps war on science and scientist. When Trump simply cut the budgets for departments, the budget was restored by congress. So, apparently, new approaches were needed. Within the USDA, he relocated DC scientists and researchers to Kansas City, with a couple weeks’ notice. (Read about Mulvaney’s praise of the effective firing of half of the DC staff by USDA’s head Sonny Purdue.) Now he apparently shut down an entire global pandemic department, while also closing down the Pandemic Reponse team in the White House. What could go wrong?
If you were a bet’n man, and we know that Trump-the-Casino-Man is, you would expect to get 2 to 5 years before some pandemic swipes through the world. Even then, what’s the chance of it being a really, really bad pandemic?
The thing with scenario planning, is that you build detection mechanism (signals and signposts) so you identify potential changes in the future. Then as part of the scenario planning process (every couple years typically), you develop contingency plans including modifications to disaster recovery plans (DRPs).
Or, you simply kill off (fire) the voices of science and fact.