The strategic national reserve was ready, but not for this

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, Americans have heard a lot about the obscure but vast federal emergency supply market, Strategic National Stock,

Most of the discussion concerns its flaws. Hospitals and ambulances collided acute shortage critical equipment such as fans and face masks. It is clear that the national a stack has almost enough such supplies satisfy current need.

Meanwhile, there are many things in stock that are not particularly useful right now – for example, botulism antitoxin and millions of doses of smallpox vaccine. how scientist who is focused on the role expertise in tackling an uncertain futureI have long been interested in how decisions are made about what to put in the Strategic National Reserve.

The question of what to store in case of emergency indicates a wider problem: how is security and health officials decide which threats are most urgent to prepare. This is a matter of collective judgment, not technical calculation.

Find out what to prepare for

The total content of the national stock is classified, as well as its location. But some details are available in journalistic reports and government reportsIncluding the presence of at least six large warehouses scattered in different parts of the country. It was run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was then transferred to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services in 2018.

A strategic national stockpile was created in 1999, as health and safety officials in the Clinton administration were increasingly worried about the vast stocks of anthrax and smallpox that The Soviet Union has accumulatedWhen the Soviet government collapsed and the Cold War ended, it was unclear where all these armed pathogens went or who had them. For this reason, most of the Strategic National Stock consists of boxes and bottles of countermeasures to counter potential attacks of biological weapons.

In 2001, a policy planning group called Dark Winter, conducted by a group of government officials at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, simulated a devastating smallpox attack on the United States. According to scenarioDesigned by the Biosafety Research Center, based in the District of Columbia, the shortage of smallpox vaccine has led to riots and political collapse. Participants were not able to contain the simulated outbreak using existing public health measures and policies.

After the exercise, officials added enough smallpox vaccine to the National Strategic Reserve to be able to vaccinate entire US populationIt was assumed that in order to avoid the collapse observed in the Dark Winter, the country would need a sufficient amount of vaccine before a future smallpox attack.

New problems arise

But security officials were also worried about other potential threats. To respond in the event of a chemical attack, stockpiled 2000 packages of nerve agent antidote,

To counter the threat of anthrax attack, she acquired stocks of a new anthrax vaccine purchased from a biotechnology company under $ 1.5 billion contract with the state administration for biomedical research and development.

In the mid-2000s, planners began to focus on the possibility that Avian Influenza H5N1 would mutate to become easily transmitted among humans. They added millions of doses antiviral drugs effective against influenza but not against coronavirus; and influenza vaccines in stock.

Most of the effort and money is the annual budget of about 600 million. Dollars. USA – to maintain the Strategic National Stock is aimed at ensuring the proper storage and updating of these biomedical countermeasures.

Unknown remain

As a result of all these efforts, the Strategic National Reserve, created over the past 20 years, was well prepared for a number of possible threats, but not for the event that really happened.

One lesson is that warehousing is not just storing a large number of supplies and equipment; it also requires consideration of the broader issue of which dangers are most pressing. Exercises and simulations can tell security planners where vulnerabilities lie in the present, but they cannot show what will actually happen in the future.

Given the current emphasis on maintaining limited stocks and carefully calibrated supply chains designed to deliver things only when they are needed, it might seem outdated to store large volumes of supplies in order to remain available for an indefinite period of time.

In fact, this type of government supply chain is rooted in the industrial era. mobilization for total warwhen the entire economies of the countries were transformed to support large-scale military efforts.

Waging uncertain war

The term “reserve” did not become widely used until the outbreak of World War II.

As part of an industry mobilization effort, the US government began storing large volumes strategic materials“- the main industrial ingredients, such as copper, tungsten and rubber, – in anticipation of the cessation of supplies from abroad. After the war, government stocks expanded and now include stocks needed to support civilian lives, such as electric generators, oil, food, and medicine.

During the Cold War, the United States kept extensive medical supplies intended for use after a nuclear attack. By 1955 civil defense medical supplies contained 9 million doses of penicillin, 33 million capsules of broad-spectrum antibiotics, 2 million kits for collecting and transfusion of whole blood, 132,000 radiological monitoring tools and more than 25 million doses of vaccines and antitoxins to fight infectious diseases and protect against biological warfare.

These materials were located in 32 storage facilities across the country, in small towns located four hours from major cities.

However, as weapons became more powerful, the public became more skeptical that a nuclear war could survive. As a result, Congress’s support for stockpiling declined.

By the end of the 1960s, over $ 100 million of unused medical supplies were gradually deteriorating in storage facilities across the country. The federal government destroyed its entire medical stockpile and closed the program in 1974.

It was only in the late 1990s, in the face of a new threat of bioterrorism, that the US government returned to the technique of stockpiling medicine for a future disaster.

Today, the Strategic National Reserve is designed to protect the population from a wide range of potential threats, but it lacks what is needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

This indicates accumulation limitations as a security measure. Stocks inevitably worsen or become obsolete; maintaining stocks is constantly undergoing budgetary struggles, in part because it is impossible to know whether its stocks will ever be needed. Stock is being collected in preparation for a specific imaginary future, but the actual future is rarely expected.

U.S. tries to meet protective gear requests

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Coronavirus: Strategic National Stock was ready, but not for that (2020, April 3)
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