Apr 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel proposes new Cabinet department to battle future pandemics

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and White House chief of staff for President Obama, called on the federal government in a Wall Street Journal op-ed to create a Cabinet-level executive department to coordinate the nation’s response to future pandemics.

Why it matters: Emanuel suggested that the agency, which he called the Department of Public Health and Emergency Care, should be modeled on the Department of Homeland Security created by President George W. Bush after 9/11.

What he's saying: Emanuel argued that because multiple "disconnected agencies" are responsible for the national response to a pandemic, none can be fully held accountable for government incompetence in the face of an outbreak.

  • "Even if the buck ultimately stops in the Oval Office, Americans should be able to hold a single official accountable for the nation’s anticipation, preparation and response to future pandemics," he writes.
  • "History will hold Mr. Trump responsible for the federal government’s lack of urgency in the early weeks, and the cavalier response that followed. He cannot claim he was insufficiently warned."

The big picture: Emanuel recommended that the agency build and maintain a strategic stockpile of medical equipment, set up a warning system for potential global viruses and develop a corps of health care professionals that would deploy to hotspots.

  • "One crucial lesson of the current catastrophe is that response speed plays an outsize role in determining the extent of devastation," he wrote. "But the diffusion of power slows us down."

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