Burr Releases New Report on ASPR’s Role in Federal Pandemic Response, Key Recommendations

Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), released a new report on the role of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) during the COVID-19 pandemic and recommended reforms.

The policy brief, titled “Reforming and Strengthening ASPR: Ensuring Specialized Capabilities, Sufficient Capacity, and Specific Authorities to Meet 21st Century Public Health Security Threats,” is the second in a series of white papers on the government’s pandemic response released by the Ranking Member. The first installment, titled “Modernizing CDC: Ensuring a Strategic Approach and Improving Accountability,” was released in May 2021.

“The [Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response] is designed to serve in a leadership position during public health emergencies, and must bring a daily urgency to the role – whether it is in the midst of a response, or during routine planning and exercises to be prepared for the next threat,” the report states. “The ASPR role requires constant vigilance to help determine the public health threats that we will face and to protect the American people.” 

The report concludes, “The ASPR’s job is to save lives. Reaffirming the ASPR’s leadership, strengthening the ASPR’s ability to leverage and partner with the private sector, and integrating innovative technologies throughout the preparedness framework will each help to improve the role and leave our country better prepared for the future.”

Key Recommendations:

The policy brief, “Reforming and Strengthening ASPR: Ensuring Specialized Capabilities, Sufficient Capacity, and Specific Authorities to Meet 21st Century Public Health Security Threats,” includes the following recommendations:

  • Promoting Strong, Effective Leadership and Coordination: HHS and ASPR need clear and effective leadership to promote better all-hazard preparedness and operational response coordination within HHS and across federal interagency efforts. The ASPR is responsible for ensuring an organized, coordinated, and effective response in support of the medical and public health needs of state, local, tribal and territorial authorities during pandemics, disasters, and other public health emergencies. In order to achieve this mission, the Department Secretary’s and the ASPR’s authorities should be made clearer and more specific about the operational role of executing a coordinated response to any future public health emergency, and should be routinely exercised. 
  • Strengthening Public Private Partnerships: ASPR needs to expand, strengthen, and sustain public-private partnerships in the medical countermeasure, health care system, and medical supply chain sectors. The success of Operation Warp Speed’s “whole of government” approach was built on a foundation, created by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), of leveraging partnerships between and among the federal government, the private sector, and academia. This type of public-private partnership must be improved and sustained to address lessons learned during the pandemic.
  • Leveraging Innovation: ASPR should leverage innovation to expand public health and medical preparedness and response capacity and capabilities, including those of the medical countermeasures enterprise, health care system, and public health programs. Innovation is needed for faster and more efficient identification, development, and manufacture of medical countermeasures, and for health care systems to expand their limited surge capacity to rapidly surge personnel and staffed medical beds to meet future contingencies.

You can read the complete policy brief here

You can read the first policy on the CDC’s pandemic response and key recommendations for reform here.