The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) has been renamed and elevated to the status of a standalone agency.
In name, the office officially became the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, keeping the same abbreviation but moving upward from a staff division to an operating division. On a practical level, this means that it now shares the same level of independent authority as agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will allow the administration to exert greater central authority over future disaster and emergency response.
“Our mission at HHS is to improve the health and wellbeing of all Americans, and our country must be prepared to respond to health-related emergencies,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “The reclassification of ASPR helps strengthen our long-term preparedness posture by better positioning the division to continue coordinating health-related emergency response in collaboration with our various HHS teams.”
Despite the status change, ASPR will face no leadership change. It will continue to be guided by Dawn O’Connell. She will oversee a growing division of increased scope, its position bolstered in particular by the multi-year COVID-19 pandemic.