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Former Director of US Foreign Disaster Assistance on Trump: “Welcome to My Nightmare”

Saturday, February 18, 2017 15:43
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Jeremy Konyndyk was the Director of US Foreign Disaster Assistance under President Obama, and he posted this chilling series of tweets yesterday about the ultimate nightmare scenario: the highly likely outbreak of a dangerous disease or virus during the Trump administration.

This is terrifying stuff, and it’s coming from someone who was right there in the middle of the government’s response to Ebola, who knows what’s involved and what can go wrong. Donald Trump is setting up the United States — and possibly the world — for a devastating pandemic with a government unable to respond, crippled by Trump’s incompetence and disastrous far right policies.

For readability, I’ve reformatted the whole tweet storm:

Lot of speculation these days about how #Trump Admin will manage a REAL crisis, given its high level of baseline chaos. Let’s dive in.

I ran int’l disaster response under Obama, incl the Ebola reponse. Trump is undermining every crisis mgmt tool USG has in its arsenal.

.@BillGates was on @NPR today talking #pandemic threat. Nerve-wracking to think how current White House would handle such a crisis.

Not a theoretical threat. Each POTUS has faced outbreak crises: AIDS, SARS, Bird flu, swine flu, Ebola. Just a matter of time.

#Ebola was complex & tough as hell, even tho not a very transmissible disease. A highly contagious, highly fatal flu would be 100x worse.

Defeating Ebola req’d solid crisis mgmt: strong NSC process, reliable info flow to POTUS, credible public & global messaging..

…scientific expertise, strong multilat partnerships, all feeding a coherent strategy. Trump weakening EVERY SINGLE ONE of these tools.

NSC process is reputedly a wreck. Deputies’ mtgs are the engine of major crisis mgmt – if they’re not working, you’ll fail, period.

Why? B/c any major crisis is inherent whole-of-govt endeavor. On Ebola: USAID, CDC, DoD, State, USPHS, etc. Need strong NSC traffic cop.

Need reliable info flow to POTUS. Obama’s info reqs kept us focused, helped interagency alignment, enabled informed real-time decisions.

In active crisis, accurate real-time info is paramount. Ignoring PDBs, not reading briefing papers – ensures poor decision making.

Next: public credibility. If outbreak hits, White House uniquely positioned to message to US & world – but only if ppl trust them.

On past outbreaks, POTUS’ personal involvement could spur global action. US credibility was a given. But would the world believe Trump?

Respect for science…oy. Need I even say it? Will Admin that flirts w/ anti-vaxxers & climate deniers listen to its own health experts?

This matters ENORMOUSLY. Outbreak control rests on understanding the disease; misunderstand the science and you’ll use the wrong tools.

Another big lesson of Ebola – need strong multilat partnerships. US must lead but can’t do everything. Need UN, allies to share burden.

Partnerships even more crucial in a real global pandemic. But will world follow USG that alienates multilat institutions and allies?

Finally: coherent strategy. On Ebola, NSC put AID & CDC in strat lead, POTUS outlined clear interagency plan so agencies could slot in.

Hard to see current chaos on NSC, & b/w WH and agencies yielding any kind of strategic coherence. So, likely to work at cross purposes.

THIS IS ALL FIXABLE. But wld take empowered NSC, engagement w/agency expertise, thoughtful strategy process. Not evident in past 4 wks.

So as an emergency manager, welcome to my nightmare. Politics aside, I sincerely hope next Natl Security Advisor empowered to fix it.

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