10/06/2005

Daily Kos: DHHS' Avian Flu Preparedness Leader is Inexperienced Crony

DHHS' Avian Flu Preparedness Leader is Inexperienced Crony
by jorndorff
Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 00:37:31 CDT

That's right, guys and gals, there's another Brownie in the ranks. This time it's in the even more pivotal role of Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the Dept. of Health & Human Services. Apparently, any Joe Schmoe with the right connections is qualified to protect the nation in the event of a pandemic and provide the subsequent preventative medical measures...

In April of 2004, Stewart Simonson was named Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness (ASPHEP).

What, you may ask, are Mr. Simonson's related emergency preparedness credentials?


Well, you see...he doesn't quite...have any.

Here's Simonson's bio from the DHHS:
From 2001-2003, he was the HHS Deputy General Counsel and provided legal advice and counsel to the Secretary on public health preparedness matters. Prior to joining HHS, Simonson served as corporate secretary and counsel for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK).

From 1995-1999, Simonson was Legal Counsel to Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson. In the Governor's Office, Simonson also directed policy development for crime and corrections and coordinated the state's public safety agencies.

Simonson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986 and Juris Doctor degree in 1994.

But, not to worry, I'm sure he's taken a night course at a community college on emergency preparedness since being appointed. And, hell, Tommy Thompson obviously thinks he's a great guy, good enough to run an emergency preparedness team without any prior experience.


Even the former ASPHEP, Jerome Hauer, has denounced Simonson's ability to perform the position's duties. Hauer, a graduate of the John Hopkins School of Public Health and former emergency management director of New York City, said in a December '04 biodefense panel that Simonson was to blame for the continued lack of adequate disaster preparedness. The Washington Drug Letter reported:
"[Hauer] also insinuated poor policymaking has left the country vulnerable to terrorist attacks using weapons of mass destruction.


Hauer faulted the current management at the ASPHEP Office, including acting secretary Stewart Simonson, for not being better prepared to handle its duties. He called for the creation of a new federal office to coordinate US biodefense activities.


...


"The decisions being made do not appear to have a sound basis," said Hauer, currently senior vice president of government relations for consulting firm Fleishman-Hillard.

In a recent press release entitled Cronyism in the Bush Administration, Rep. Henry Waxman adds this about Simonson:
"At a House Government Reform hearing on July 14, 2005, Mr. Simonson claimed he had sufficient funds to purchase influenza vaccine and antiviral medication for the nation. The next day, his office submitted a funding request to Congress seeking an additional $150 million for flu vaccine and antiviral medication."

Forgive me if this sounds rather like Emergency UNpreparedness.


Given the potentially catastrophic nature of avian flu, shouldn't we have someone with at least some background in public health or emergency management? Is that too much to ask? Or should we all just await the inevitable and say it now, Stewie, you're doing a heck of a job.

Daily Kos: DHHS' Avian Flu Preparedness Leader is Inexperienced Crony

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