Despite previous efforts to prepare for a flu pandemic, the federal government should do more to clarify federal leadership roles and address the essential characteristics of an effective national strategy, a new Government Accountability Office report found.
In November 2005, President Bush and the Homeland Security Council issued the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza to provide an overview of the federal governments approach in a disaster; in May 2006, they issued the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, which was intended to outline broad implementation requirements and responsibilities among federal agencies. The purpose of the August GAO report was to evaluate the extent to which federal leadership roles are defined and also the extent to which both documents address the characteristics of a national strategy.
According to the study, the strategy and plan address fully just one of six characteristics of an effective national strategy, specifically problem definition and risk assessment, but they do not account for resources, investments and risk management. The earlier two documents only partially address the other areas, which include clear purpose and methodology; goals, objectives and performance measures; organizational roles and coordination; and integration and implementation.
The GAO recommended that Homeland Security and HHS develop rigorous testing, training and exercises to ensure leadership roles are defined clearly and work effectively. It also suggested that the Homeland Security Council set a timeframe to update the May 2006 implementation plan; involve nonfederal stakeholders; and more fully address the characteristics of a national plan. -- by Jessica Zigmond
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