With senior officials acknowledging that the potential damage from infectious disease could rival the impact of a nuclear, chemical or large-scale cyberattack, the Obama administration recently launched a new effort to respond to this growing threat. The initiative, called the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), is intended to build coordination across U.S. government agencies and between partner governments.
In an op-ed announcing the GHSA, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Lisa Monaco, a senior White House homeland security and counterterrorism official, called the need to “prevent, detect and respond” to new biological threats “not just a health challenge; it’s a security challenge as well.”
Tom Inglesby of the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explains that health security is broadly accepted to be a component of national security. “We’ve seen the kind of impact that global pandemics can have, including on trade, exchange and travel,” he says. Infectious diseases “can have profound consequences both within countries and on the international security landscape.”