Former Obama White House aides have voiced criticism that the Trump White House has not included enough scientists and experts in its ranks to allow it to quickly respond to the coronavirus pandemic as cases in the country reach over 22,000 and states begin to lockdown.
Yet others have praised the Trump administration for developing a more streamlined team of experts, putting the right people in place to advise the president.
They have also praised the development of a task force includes the likes of top meteorologist Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, whose role as the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy had previously been sidelined.
It took a year after Trump took office before Droegemeier was appointed as OSTP head and he was not initially included in the task force line up in January, to the surprise of other experts.
Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier is the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy appointed in 2018 and a member of the Trump administrations coronavirus reponse task force
Former Obama White House aides have voiced criticism that the Trump White House has not included enough scientists and experts in its ranks that would have dealt with the pandemic
Health care workers await patients to test for coronavirus in the pop up test facility in Pennsylvania. Trump has been relying more on scientists as the pandemic worsened
In recent weeks, however, Droegemeier has worked with science and medical journal editors to ensure that new research on the coronavirus is being published for free.
He has also met with representatives from the Pentagon, the intelligence community, academics and other experts from within the government to focus on providing funds to academics working on predicting how the outbreak will hit the country, as he is praised for leaving politics out of his work.
‘Dr. Droegemeier’s extensive experience as a scientist has made him an important voice at the table, and he has a robust ability to bring experts together from the nation and the world to work on solutions,’ a spokesperson for the OSTP told Yahoo News.
‘His experience also lends to his great ability to advise President Trump on science and technology matters,’ the spokesperson continued.
‘He truly is a direct link to the scientific community. Also, as a meteorologist he has a wealth of knowledge on data, modeling and prediction, which has been monumentally valuable during this outbreak.’
Trump did not appoint a head to the Office of Science and Technology Policy for a year
Droegemeier, who has previously commented that ‘science needs to be conducted free from political interference’, has been used by some as an example of a scientist who expertise was been sidelined by Trump before the pandemic struck.w
The president has previously said he has a ‘natural instinct’ for science.
Since taking office in 2016, Trump disbanded a team within the National Security Council focused on global health but his administrarion insists that it allowed for the NSC to become more streamlined and that still maintains a high level of expertise on infectious diseases.
‘I am sure they will do a very good job,’ William Happer, the director for emerging technologies on Trump’s NSC until September 2019, told Yahoo News.
However former Obama aides have criticized the move, claiming that the Trump administration dismantled the protocols they had begun to establish for dealing with a national and global pandemic such as the one currently faced with the coronavirus.
They told Yahoo that ’85 percent’ of what is currently happening had been predicted by experts working under Obama but that the potential response plan to a global pandemic, modeled after their experience with Ebola, had been ‘dismantled’ after Trump took office.
Tim Morrison, the former senior director for counter-proliferation and bio-defense on the National Security Council, however, has argued that this is unfounded and that the NSC is just as capable as it ever was to respond to the pandemic, remaining well-staffed and having accomplished several biodefense-related achievements over recent years, including an executive order to modernize influenza vaccines.
Others believe that the crisis may have changed Trump aversion to help from scientists as he allows experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to take a prominent role in White House briefings on the task force’s response.
‘This pandemic is historical, it’s colossal, it’s epic, it’s unprecedented,’ said J. Stephen Morrison, the director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
‘It’s going to set off years of deliberation … of inquiries in which the academies and OSTP and others are going to be called upon.’
He added that when it comes to the OSTP headed by Droegemeier, it ‘is sometimes important and sometimes isn’t … depending on who occupies it and what their access is to the White House’.
And others believe that not having scientists within government is not a bad thing when they can still be called in for advice.
‘It’s a very Trumpian thing. Trump’s inclination is, if the government doesn’t have the answer, to reach out beyond the government and ask,’ said Jim Carafano of the Heritage Foundation.
‘Not every smart person is in government.’
Yet others have warned that this may slow down a process that needs to react quickly.
It’s unclear how much face time Droegemeier gets with Trump although he has said that that the president regularly visits meetings of the coronavirus task force and asks questions.
Droegemeier also remains diplomatic about the President’s response, a tactic that has been praised.
He has been called ‘shrewd’ for not involving politics in his work with Trump in order to push his own perspective, including his denial to comment on his thoughts on climate change as a meterorologist.