President Trump and his administration have postponed, without explanation, an annual intelligence report that warns that the U.S. is unprepared for a global pandemic, TIME reported.
The Worldwide Threat Assessment was scheduled to be delivered by the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 12. According to members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and staffers, the hearings have not been rescheduled.
Two senior government officials who have reviewed the classified final draft of the report say it contains warnings similar to the last report, published on January 29, 2019.
“The United States will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support,” the 2019 report warns on page 29.
“Although the international community has made tenuous improvements to global health security, these gains may be inadequate to address the challenge of what we anticipate will be more frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases because of rapid unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human incursion into previously unsettled land, expansion of international travel and trade, and regional climate change,” the 2019 threat assessment warned.
The 2019 warning was the third time that intelligence experts expressed concern of a new strain of influenza that could lead to a pandemic. Rather than taking these into consideration and bolstering the U.S.’s ability to respond to an outbreak, the Trump administration cut back money and personnel from pandemic preparedness.
Trump’s aides dismissed the National Security Council’s global health security staff in May 2018 and moved to cut its budget while the White House cut the budgets of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The nature of the intelligence community means that most of their work is conducted in secret, and our hearings occur mostly behind closed doors,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. “The annual, public Worldwide Threats hearing serves several crucial purposes, most importantly allowing the American people to understand the multitude of threats our country faces and judge for themselves how our leaders are responding.”