SCOOP: We obtained the detailed National Security Council “pandemic response playbook” left by the Obama team for the Trump team. It was, basically, “thrown onto a shelf.” w/ @ddiamond https://t.co/BPQYLLkyL0
— Nahal Toosi (@nahaltoosi) March 26, 2020
… “Is there sufficient personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who are providing medical care?” the playbook instructs its readers, as one early decision that officials should address when facing a potential pandemic. “If YES: What are the triggers to signal exhaustion of supplies? Are additional supplies available? If NO: Should the Strategic National Stockpile release PPE to states?”
The strategies are among hundreds of tactics and key policy decisions laid out in a 69-page National Security Council playbook on fighting pandemics, which POLITICO is detailing for the first time. Other recommendations include that the government move swiftly to fully detect potential outbreaks, secure supplemental funding and consider invoking the Defense Production Act — all steps in which the Trump administration lagged behind the timeline laid out in the playbook.
“Each section of this playbook includes specific questions that should be asked and decisions that should be made at multiple levels” within the national security apparatus, the playbook urges, repeatedly advising officials to question the numbers on viral spread, ensure appropriate diagnostic capacity and check on the U.S. stockpile of emergency resources.
The playbook also stresses the significant responsibility facing the White House to contain risks of potential pandemics, a stark contrast with the Trump administration’s delays in deploying an all-of-government response and President Donald Trump’s recent signals that he might roll back public health recommendations…
The NSC devised the guide — officially called the Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents, but known colloquially as “the pandemic playbook” — across 2016. The project was driven by career civil servants as well as political appointees, aware that global leaders had initially fumbled their response to the 2014-2015 spread of Ebola and wanting to be sure that the next response to an epidemic was better handled.
The Trump administration was briefed on the playbook’s existence in 2017, said four former officials, but two cautioned that it never went through a full, National Security Council-led interagency process to be approved as Trump administration strategy. Tom Bossert, who was then Trump’s homeland security adviser, expressed enthusiasm about its potential as part of the administration’s broader strategy to fight pandemics, two former officials said…
The NSC playbook would have been especially useful in helping to drive the administration’s response to coronavirus, given that it was intended to guide urgent decisions and coordinate the all-of-government approach that Trump so far has struggled to muster, said people familiar with the document.
The color-coded playbook contains different sections based on the relative risk — green for normal operations, yellow for elevated threat, orange for credible threat and red once a public health emergency is declared — and details the potential roles of dozens of departments and agencies, from key players like the Health and Human Services department to the Department of Transportation and the FBI. It also includes sample documents intended to be used at coordinating meetings.
We’ve now uploaded the full White House pandemic playbook, color-coded rubrics and all. https://t.co/KCkpInN8BP
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 26, 2020
Look, that was years & years ago, and really what could anyone learn from a bunch of nerds working for That Black Dude, anyways? “We” may not have deserved President Obama, but thousands of innocent victims sure as hell don’t deserve Trump, either.
Every attempt at parody under Trump ends up as an anticipatory echo of the actual pic.twitter.com/guEs1mW30Y
— Tom Scocca (@tomscocca) March 26, 2020