According to a recent report conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. Departments of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS) and Homeland Security (DHS) should use existing coordination mechanisms to improve their response capabilities in the event of an outbreak of pandemic disease.
GAO’s assessment was conducted in response to a U.S. House of Representatives report examining how the DOD would coordinate and support civil authorities like DHS and HHS during a pandemic. For the report, the GAO reviewed agency pandemic guidance and plans, interagency coordination mechanisms, and pandemic-related exercises.
Currently, the DOD has defined guidance and plans in providing assistance in support of both the DHS and HHS. While DHS and HHS have plans to guide their response to a pandemic, the GAO report found that those plans do not explain how the agencies would respond in a resource-constrained environment.
The report notes that the agencies currently have mechanisms — such as interagency working groups, liaison officers, and training exercises — to coordinate their responses to a pandemic outbreak.
GAO said that the DHS and HHS plans do not specifically identify what resources would be needed to support a response to a pandemic in which demands exceeded federal resources. In response to GAO’s report, both agencies are in the process of updating their plans to determine what actions they need to take should DOD’s support be limited.