HHS creates new division for pandemic response

President Joe Biden's administration is creating a new HHS division to bolster responses to pandemics and other health emergencies, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported July 20.  

The change will elevate the existing HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response team from a staff division to an operating division effectively on par with the CDC and FDA, according to the media outlets. The new operating division is called the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response.

"This change allows ASPR to mobilize a coordinated national response more quickly and stably during future disasters and emergencies while equipping us with greater hiring and contracting capabilities," Dawn O'Connell, who is assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS and would run the new division, wrote to staff members July 20 in a memo shared with The Washington Post. "As an [operating division], we are now in the same category as other large HHS teams with core operational responsibilities such as CDC, [National Institutes of Health], FDA, CMS and [Administration for Children and Families]. This change is an important next step for our organization which has continued to grow and evolve since its creation in 2006."

Ms. O'Connell also told workers that the changes "are complementary to the broader ASPR reorganization" and that "enhanced capability in hiring and contracting will be made over a period of time to ensure a seamless and gradual transition of key responsibilities from the Assistant Secretary for Administration to our ASPR team."

The new division will operate out of HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to The New York Times.

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