As the US scrambles to secure critical supplies of basic medical safety equipment to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, a 2016 White House playbook has come to light detailing how a federal procurement response should have begun two months ago.
The 69-page National Security Council document, revealed in reporting by Politico, outlines a full set of strategies for dealing with a pandemic — from detecting outbreaks, to securing funding, and making use of the Defence Production Act.
The playbook even asks government officials to consider: “Is there sufficient personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who are providing medical care?”
The executive summary outlines the goal of the playbook as being “to assist US government experts and leaders in coordinating a complex US government response to a high-consequence emerging disease threat anywhere in the world with potential to cause an epidemic, pandemic, or other significant public health event.”
Officially called The Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents, the playbook provides decision makers with step-by-step instructions regarding questions to ask, agency counterparts to consult for answers, and key decisions to be made at each stage of an outbreak.
It also calls for a “unified message” from the federal government, and stresses that: “The American public will look to the US government for action when multi-state or other significant events occur.”
The playbook was originally devised after what was seen as a fumbled response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Politico reports that the Trump administration was briefed on the document in 2017, but did not go through the full approval process to be made the administration’s official strategy.
Officials have confirmed that they are aware of the document, but say that it has since been superseded by other documents, plans and policies that include lessons learned from the playbook as well as more recent epidemics.