According to the former head of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, the United States is currently vulnerable to a biological attack. Ridge appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday to discuss the problem and what the incoming Trump administration can do to solve it.
“We’re ill prepared,” Ridge said. “We spend billions of dollars and are well intentioned to deal with this, but frankly, there is no centralized leadership, there is no central strategy. There is no comprehensive budget. We don’t set priorities.”
Ridge, who became the first Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, said that funding alone wouldn’t keep America safe from disease, be it weaponized or natural. He said the outbreak could even come from an accident in one of our own military laboratories.
“Between Mother Nature, terrorism, and the fact of the matter we use in some of our labs, and once in awhile there’s a report that there’s been a leakage there, we have real challenges ahead of us,” said Ridge.
As anyone who has read Stephen King’s The Stand can tell you!
Ebola and Zika were the warning shots. The canaries in the coal mine. Those diseases could have easily taken a different turn.
“It’s serious enough that this bipartisan commission of three Republicans and three Democrats said you ought to locate the authority and responsibility in the White House,” said Ridge.
Ridge said leadership needed to be consolidated and centralized to make a difference in America’s biological preparedness.
“You need an overall strategy,” he said. “You have disparate agencies, five or six of the cabinet agencies and literally dozens and dozens of programs spending money, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. You need a comprehensive strategy, and then finally, you need somebody working with the Office of Management and Budget to set priorities.”
America’s military capabilities have declined under President Obama, and our country’s biological defense capabilities are just one aspect of that deterioration. The problem is that we’ve been without a strong leader for eight years. That kind of incompetence and mismanagement has consequences. Republicans aren’t free from blame here, but their culpability is nothing compared to the president’s. We need some backbone in the White House – someone who understands that the president’s first job is to defend and protect the United States from threat.
Thankfully, we have just such a man on his way.