Representatives Crow, Stefanik Introduce Legislation to Improve Pandemic Preparedness

May 26, 2020
Press Release
February 2020 GAO report raised grave concerns about pandemic preparedness; Bill mobilizes administration’s response
U.S. Representatives Jason Crow (D-CO-06) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) introduced the bipartisan Responsibility and Accountability in Pandemic/Biodefense Planning (RASPP) Act of 2020 on Friday to improve pandemic preparedness and mobilize the administration to formalize organization structures, clarify roles and responsibilities, and improve congressional oversight to ensure that the National Biodefense Strategy is being adhered to. While the threat to Americans from a biological weapon or global pandemic has been a long-term concern in health and national security communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need to prioritize biodefense response and prevention planning into stark relief. 

“As a soldier, I learned that preparation can mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield. The federal government must take the same approach. This effort will help ensure we take a whole-of-government approach and make necessary changes to improve our country’s biodefense management,” said Congressman Crow.   

“The COVID-19 crisis has illuminated the need for a comprehensive and clear biodefense strategy so that our nation is better prepared for future public health threats,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “This bipartisan bill directs the Secretary of HHS to clarify our national prevention strategy for public health issues like COVID-19 and other biodefense threats. Congress must prioritize a whole of government approach to ensure our nation not only has prevention plans, but that there are implementation strategies for these plans in place. I will continue to advocate for a national strategy to fight COVID-19 and other public health threats and to equip our healthcare workers on the front lines.”

In 2016, Congress called for further improvements to our national preparedness in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which required the Secretaries of Defense, Health, and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Agriculture to develop a joint National Defense Biodefense Strategy. While the White House created the Biodefense Steering Committee and Biodefense Coordination Team in 2018 to monitor and coordinate the implementation of the National Biodefense Strategy, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) outlined several challenges and issues that could limit the long-term implementation of the Strategy and highlighted the need for urgent improvements to our country’s pandemic preparedness. 

The Responsibility and Accountability in Pandemic/Biodefense Planning (RASPP) Act of 2020 addresses the concerns raised by GAO and directs the Secretary of HHS to:

  • Enter into a memorandum of understanding to describe the roles and responsibilities of Federal departments and agencies, including detailing information sharing procedures;
  • Clarify roles, responsibilities, and processes for decision-making that involves shifting resources across agency boundaries to more effectively or efficiently address enterprise-wide risk;
  • Prepare an inventory and assessment of all existing strategies, plans, policies, laws, and interagency agreements with respect to biodefense;
  • Establish a resource plan to staff, support, and sustain the efforts of the Biodefense Coordination Team;
  • Name the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a member of the Biodefense Steering Committee;
  • Clearly document guidance and methods for analyzing the data collected from agencies to include non-Federal resources and capabilities; and
  • Report to Congress on possible implementation strategies, that will effectively and efficiently enhance information-sharing activities on biosurveillance data integration.

The bill text is available here