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The New Administration

November 6, 2008

supermanA couple of homeland security bloggers have noted that after Tuesday’s election, President-elect Obama’s team posted a new website on the transition effort. Well, it’s not just them that get to have all of the fun–us public health folks get a bit of love as well. And, in all honesty, quite a bit of love from the incoming President.

From the Homeland Security Agenda page, the third item down (after Defeat Terrorism Worldwide and Prevent Nuclear Terrorism) is Strengthen American Biosecurity.


    Biological weapons pose a serious and increasing national security risk. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work to prevent bioterror attacks and mitigate consequences.

  • Prevent Bioterror Attacks: Obama and Joe Biden will strengthen U.S. intelligence collection overseas to identify and interdict would-be bioterrorists before they strike.
  • Build Capacity to Mitigate the Consequences of Bioterror Attacks: A well-planned, well-rehearsed, and rapidly executed epidemic response can dramatically diminish the consequences of biological attacks. Barack Obama will ensure that decision-makers have the information and communication tools they need to manage disease outbreaks by linking health care providers, hospitals, and public health agencies.
  • Accelerate the Development of New Medicines, Vaccines, and Production Capabilities:Barack Obama will build on America’s unparalleled talent to create new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests and to manufacture these vital products much more quickly and efficiently than is now possible.
  • Lead an International Effort to Diminish Impact of Major Infectious Disease Epidemics:Senator Obama was one of the first legislators to recognize the dangers of a potential avian influenza pandemic and was successful in securing $25 million for U.S. agencies to combat and contain widespread outbreaks of avian flu and worked to provide $4 billion in funding to the Centers for Disease Control to combat avian flu. Barack Obama will continue to promote international efforts to develop new diagnostics, vaccines, and medicines that will be available and affordable in all parts of the world.


Not bad, bird flu, prevention, mitigation. Impressive.

Then I noticed that there was a Health Care Agenda page, and lo and behold, at the bottom of that page is a hat tip toward public health preparedness in particular:

The Obama-Biden plan will promote public health. It will require coverage of preventive services, including cancer screenings, and increase state and local preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Obviously, this is a big deal to the incoming Administration, so kudos to them.

Then, I saw HSDL’s post on a site that the GAO pulled together for the transition effort. They’ve identified 13 urgent issues and linked to a bevy of resources to support them. Obviously, homeland security was mentioned, in depth, several times. Because DHS is undergoing a transition for the first time, I expected a ton of information and documents to help facilitate that change-over.

I was more impressed, though, that Strengthening Preparedness for Large-Scale Public Health Emergencies was one of the 13 key areas. They’ve even got a cool video by Cynthia Bascetta, a director of GAO’s health care team, addressing why this section was included. For a great collection of links to GAO reports on why public health emergencies should be priority, what needs to be done and background, definitely check this page out.

Photo credit: US Senate

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