February 27th, 2024 2 Minute Read Press Release

New Issue Brief: Are U.S. Health Agencies Prepared for the Next Pandemic?

Congress needs to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act

New York, NY – On March 8th, funding for most of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will expire, meaning Congress will either enact a new HHS budget, pass yet another temporary spending bill, or force a partial government shutdown. This deadline, coming just three days before the Biden Administration is expected to release its budget request for FY2025, offers good reason to consider the federal efforts to prepare for future pandemics—the focus of a new Manhattan Institute issue brief authored by senior fellow Randall Lutter.

Federal pandemic preparedness matters not only because COVID killed more than a million Americans and led to widespread economic disruption, but also because poor preparedness for COVID-19 contributed to a federal response that boosted federal debt by roughly 10% of GDP.  Lutter’s issue brief offers a comprehensive analysis of the government’s response to the pandemic, acknowledging the success of Operation Warp Speed in developing vaccines in record time while criticizing certain federal responses, such as the CDC’s delayed recognition of airborne transmission and misguided recommendation of school closures.

The issue brief scrutinizes the current strategic plans and performance measures of agencies like the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), finding them lacking in clear, objective, quantifiable and measurable goals. Lutter advocates for Congress to reauthorize the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which expired in 2023, emphasizing enhanced accountability measures such as more robust performance metrics and data-driven planning, ensuring the alignment of federal spending with tangible improvements in pandemic preparedness. Additionally, Lutter recommends using prediction markets and expert elicitation studies to estimate the likelihood of future pandemics, calling for proactive congressional action to promote effective and cost-efficient federal pandemic preparedness.

Reauthorization of PAHPA, which is widely supported, is a good way for Congress to require agencies to identify goals and performance metrics and limit expected damages from future pandemics. 

Read the full issue brief here.


Are you interested in supporting the Manhattan Institute’s public-interest research and journalism? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and its scholars’ work are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).