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This article is a submission by PNWER contributor, Jan Greylorn, and does not necessarily reflect the views of PNWER. This a submission to the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Applied History Project
In November, we will have an election.
Covid-19 will be an issue.
We may be in a harsh "second wave" as happened with the 1918 Influenza.
We may see Covid-19 decline and the glimmer of a vaccine.
Regardless, the economy will be different.
Change will accelerate.
Each candidate will have to deal with our experience, real costs (lives and treasure), problematic preparation and execution, and the risks of the "next one".
A candidate may choose to ignore the painful experience.
To a certain extent, we did that after 1918I[i].
Or they may release thick position papers and promise to do better with what we have.
Or a candidate may understand his base and look to Applied History for real measures that will resonate with voters and do the necessary hard things.
Covid-19 is the most serious attack on the United States in our collective lifetimes.
To date, the virus has killed 100,000+ of our citizens and cost over $4,000,000,000,000 (4 trillion dollars). More death and economic damage will certainly follow.
The US Covid-19 response was fragmented, leading to a shutdown which led to an economic crisis and the worst unemployment since the 1929 depression. Social unrest is already evident. Political and national security upheavals may follow.
We now know the very real Pandemic risks and consequences.
We were warned[ii]. In 2015[iii]Bill Gates laid out four things we need to meet the threat of pandemics: surveillance & data, personnel, treatments, and equipment. He said the failure to prepare would lead to increased death and cost. He was right.
Gates urged the development of a medical reserve corps, joint medical and military efforts, germ-focused war games, and stepped-up medical research. Covid-19 is what he called the “next one” after the well-studied 1918 Influenza pandemic. The one after Covid-19 could be even worse. Globalization and mass air travel have turned weeks or months of warning into days
Applied historical analysis[iv] tells us that we will need a unified response, an integrated system of planning, preparation, and execution.
In 1946, memories of the Nazi blitz, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and the frightening power of massive aerial attacks were the basis for the creation of the Strategic Air Command (SAC)[v]. SAC’s mission was to deter and counter threats with effective reconnaissance, intelligence, planning, resources, and operations. SAC had money, people, material resources, R&D, plans, coordination, and war game verification. SAC also had a SIOP, a Single, Integrated Operations Plan[vi]. We need something similar now – a Strategic Pandemic Command (SPC) with a single, integrated operations plan for Pandemics (PSIOP). Its mission would be to defend the country against biological threats and to plan for post-threat recovery.
SPC would monitor all points of entry for biological threats. SPC would protect key interior assets like the health care system, economic nodes, senior citizen life care facilities, and supply chains.
It would muster necessary resources including dedicated operational bases, communications equipment, and strategic stockpiles for its partners in city, county, state, and regional jurisdictions. It would refresh and update strategic stockpiles as they age. It would use and support US vendors with periodic purchasing through the domestic supply chain, monitor how that chain integrates globally. and test the chain’s capacity to meet surges.
The SPC would use global reconnaissance to detect threats. International cooperation would be important. A “trust but verify” process would include the support of nations and international entities with converging interests.
The SPC would coordinate research and development for threat detection, defense, mitigation, treatment, and other needs. It would also conduct its own research and supply grants to other organizations, including foreign allies.
The SPC would coordinate with both public and private entities across the health and education sectors. It would provide those entities with federal resources and templates for action.
Finally, the SPC would use war games to test operational responsiveness under normal, partial, and full-scale deployments of its resources. It could also use standard events, like the annual flu season, to test its responsiveness. Lessons learned from these simulations would strengthen SPC’s preparedness and pave the way for effective post-threat recovery.
The Strategic Air Command’s SIOP was both detailed and flexible. Roles and responsibilities were clear. It evolved and changed over time as threats and capabilities mutated. The Strategic Pandemic Command and its PSIOP should have all that and more.
The next pandemic, natural or man made, could be far, far worse. No plan is perfect, but a plan and an effective planning process and execution beat hope and luck.
We can and must do better.
A Strategic Pandemic Command with an integrated plan modeled on SAC which protected us for a half century is a path to a better way.
Mr. Jan Greylorn
BA Biomedical History, UW
BA History, Military History UW
20+ years Corporate Planning and Operations Research
(Eddie Bauer, Nordstrom, T Mobile, Washington State, Cities, Counties, Military Associations ….)
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Applied Historians begin with a current choice or predicament and analyze the historical record to provide perspective, stimulate imagination, find clues about what is likely to happen, suggest possible interventions, and assess probable consequences.
In the author’s humble opinion, Applied History