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A bureaucratic fight halted a vital Department of Homeland Security program that helped model pandemics in 2017

Business Insider 2020-03-25 21:14:00

The Department of Homeland Security.


  • The Department of Homeland Security reportedly wound down a program that created reports about how pandemics would impact American infrastructure, Politico reported.
  • An office within DHS, the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), creates analyses and reports about how disasters like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and other disasters would impact vital infrastructure.
  • From 2005-2017, NISAC produced reports about the potential impacts of pandemics, Politico reported, but that program was sidelined in 2017 after a "bureaucratic dispute."
  • The decision underscores the government's lack of preparation for handling the coronavirus pandemic, which has put severe strain on America's medical system and economy.
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The Department of Homeland Security abruptly wound down a program that modeled a pandemic's impact on U.S. infrastructure in 2017, following a "bureaucratic dispute," according to a new report by POLITICO.

The National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), an office inside the DHS, oversaw the creation of analyses of how disasters like hurricanes, floods, and other disasters would impact vital infrastructure.

The decision underscores the government's lack of preparation for handling the coronavirus pandemic, which has put a severe strain on America's medical system and economy. As of Tuesday afternoon, the virus has infected 44,183 people in the U.S. since January and killed 544 people.

From 2005 to 2017, NISAC produced reports on various pandemic scenarios, but unnamed DHS officials that spoke with Politico said a shift in priorities occured under Robert Hanson, who became division director of prioritization and modeling at DHS' Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis (OCIA) in May 2016. The NISAC is nested under OCIA.

Hanson acknowledged to Politico that he had decreased some funding away from pandemic models because he had been "been given direction by my leadership at the time to reprioritize a lot of the projects," and he agreed it was necessary. He also believed that the Centers for Disease Control was a more appropriate agency to conduct such work.

DHS did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Three years later as the coronavirus outbreak spreads across the U.S., other agencies such as Health and Human Services have attempted to request the reports during the coronavirus outbreak, Politico reported. However, DHS found the information difficult to obtain. Several reports were eventually found.

"Nobody even knew where any of the documents were anymore," one former DHS official told Politico. "It's really just a source of frustration."

Read more: In 2017, Obama officials briefed Trump's team on dealing with a pandemic like the coronavirus. One Cabinet member reportedly fell asleep, and others didn't want to be there.

Trump is demanding obsequious praise from governors and officials battling the coronavirus crisis, and is slamming New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not giving it to him


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