WASHINGTON, DC — Two former public servants from different sides of the aisle are making an urgent plea to the federal government to adopt a plan to help prevent future pandemics.
The ABC Action News I-Team has learned that an earlier version of their report that could have saved lives was never acted upon. .
That 102-page report released in October 2015 warned of the growing threat of a global pandemic.
It was presented to then-President Barack Obama and Congress by the Blue-Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, which was organized by the bi-partisan Washington think tank and research center the Hudson Institute.
That panel was chaired by former Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Republican Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.
“We made a report in 2015, sent it to the President and Congress. We got a sympathetic response, but frankly not much was done because the crisis didn’t seem real,” Liberman said.
Ridge says that’s now water under the bridge.
“The debate is what do we do about it in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Ridge said.
On Tuesday, the commission released a new report calling for “The Apollo Program for biodefense”.
“We need a big, bold national program. We’re calling it the Apollo Program, like the moon shot in the 1960’s to achieve some things that people would think are science fiction,” said Lieberman.
Among the goals proposed by 125 experts… stopping infectious diseases from becoming pandemics by identifying them in their first human clusters, then developing stockpiles of vaccines and tests that can be easily modified and deployed.
“We know we have the science. We know we have the technology. Do we have the will in this dysfunctional political world which we live in, to understand the virus, the pandemic? They don’t choose political sides,” said Ridge.
While the price tag to implement all the goals outlined in the study is large, commission members believe it will be a wise investment to protect public health and our national economy.
“To implement this program over the next 10 years would take between $10 -$ 20 billion a year. The estimates are that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost us somewhere between $10-$ 15 trillion,” said Lieberman.
“It’s aggressive, yes. It’s aspirational, yes. It’s a modest cost,” said Ridge.
Lieberman and Ridge first worked together in the immediate aftermath of 9-1-1. They’re comparing this pandemic to that.
“On many single days in this pandemic, we’ve lost more American lives to COVID-19 than were killed by the terrorists on 9-1-1,” said Lieberman.
They plan on using their personal political clout to lobby federal leaders to adopt the recommendations in this program.
“In my mind, this may be the most important, the boldest and biggest initiative maybe this country has undertaken,” said Ridge.
“It’s a real honor to have this opportunity to serve our country one more time to get across party lines,” said Lieberman.
The new report was presented to President Biden and House and Senate leaders from both parties on Tuesday.
If you have a story you think the I-Team should investigate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.