- - Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Public health security is national security. As the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated, public health crises can be as much a national security risk as war and terrorism. Without question, America must be better prepared to confront similar public health threats in the future. Republicans, through the work of our Healthy Future Task Force, are committed to strengthening America’s biodefenses and producing more American-made medicines to protect against future threats.

This is a critical part of our Healthy Future agenda.

Our country wasn’t fully prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed numerous shortcomings in our public health security infrastructure, as well as vulnerabilities to threats from abroad. Now, in its aftermath, we have learned a lot about the ways we can improve our health care system. Between vaccines, therapeutics, testing, manufacturing and fixing supply chain problems, one thing is clear: Americans deserve a better preparedness strategy.

That’s why we are focused on solutions to ensure a critical medical supply chain, secure our borders from illicit drug trafficking, reform our public health security leadership, strengthen public-private partnerships and ensure accountability from adversarial nations like China at the root of the pandemic itself.

We have already proposed legislation like the Strengthening America’s Strategic National Stockpile Act to improve the stockpile and boost American manufacturing of medical supplies. House Republicans support flexible alternatives to the current static structure that often results in expired and unused products. We must modernize our stockpile and ensure it remains fully stocked with the most up-to-date medical equipment for inevitable crises in the future. This will require investments and cross-governmental collaboration with our private sector partners.

We are also working to secure America’s medical supply chains by increasing domestic and allied sourcing of critical materials — ending our reliance on adversarial countries like China. That’s why we crafted the American Made Medicines Act. By partnering with our allies, instead of our adversaries, we can increase access to information regarding the origins of the pandemic and China’s role in preventing the free flow of information. This requires enabling international scientists to conduct unimpeded investigations into the originations of future pandemics.

Finally, Republicans are focused on strengthening our border security and permanently scheduling fentanyl-related substances to stop illicit drug trafficking and save lives.

As leaders of the Healthy Future Task Force, we are working to combine these efforts and create an overall vision that will better protect America from future threats. Another part of our plan includes reforms to public health agencies.

Our nation’s public health system can be strengthened by cutting red tape and working with the private sector. We’ve seen this approach work before: Operation Warp Speed’s development of vaccines was a historic victory, thanks in large part to regulatory flexibility, streamlined collaboration with private industry, and the appropriate investment in our federal response.

We must also maintain an accountable, transparent, robust and mission-driven National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on their core missions. The NIH was founded to seek fundamental knowledge to enhance health and reduce illness and disability. Historically, Republicans have been strong supporters of its basic research functions tailored to these goals. Similarly, the CDC was created to support essential public health security activities in response to infectious diseases.

These agencies should not, however, be vulnerable to outside influence and political agendas. For instance, emails obtained last year revealed how CDC leadership allowed one of the largest teachers unions to make edits to school reopening guidance despite having no scientific expertise. This ultimately kept more schools closed for longer — something that can never happen again. We must also ensure our NIH resources are being spent wisely and efficiently, not on political, non-health initiatives like climate change and “ending structural racism.”

For too long, instead of focusing on protecting the American public from fundamental threats, the left has used these federal agencies to advance controversial social agendas. House Republicans are committed to upholding and restoring the core missions of the CDC and NIH. We will empower local governments to lead their communities on public health preparedness rather than federal bureaucrats. We will also conduct strict oversight regarding the CDC’s repeated overstepping of its legal authorities and coercive agenda-setting with political allies that resulted in sweeping, unsupported policies that destroyed jobs, limited freedoms and fueled increases in mental health disorders.

The American people deserve a clear-eyed assessment of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the vulnerabilities it exposed. Republicans established the Healthy Future Task Force to chart a stronger path forward. Whether it is preparing for the next public health security threat or working to ensure reliable access to quality health care, we know the time for action is now. A healthier future for all Americans demands we don’t cut corners on our nation’s preparedness. Americans cannot afford anything less.

• Rep. Richard Hudson is the chair of the Healthy Future Task Force Security Subcommittee and a member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. Rep. Jim Banks is a member of the Task Force Security Subcommittee and chair of the Republican Study Committee. Rep. Tom Cole is a member of the Task Force Security Subcommittee and ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

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