March 25, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security reportedly stopped updating its annual pandemic planning models in 2017, leaving the government scrambling to respond to the coronavirus with a patchwork of documents. The public deserves to know why DHS discontinued updating these models, which has hampered the response to the pandemic, and whether any outside influence was brought to bear.  

Previous models mapped healthcare infrastructure vulnerabilities and emergency response planning, but Trump’s DHS leadership rapidly decreased planning and instead redirected funding to border control and cyber research. Further, when the Department of Health and Human Services asked DHS for 2007 and 2009 pandemic reports to inform their response to the coronavirus, DHS allegedly had difficulty finding documents, though they eventually did turn over the files. 

CREW requested DHS records on the decision to wind down productions of pandemic planning models which seems to have impeded the government’s ability to respond effectively to the current coronavirus pandemic. 

The requested records would provide insight on what rationale, if any, the government had for neglecting to identify and fix infrastructure vulnerabilities in order to prepare for a pandemic like the coronavirus. It is vital that the public is aware of the extent that the DHS failed to account for severe public health risks in their national security assessments and continued to impede the work of other agencies in their response to the coronavirus.

Read the request here.