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January 13, 2016

Ebola Report Shows We Still Don’t Know Who’s In Charge

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the below statement in response to a Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) report on the federal government’s Ebola response in 2014.

In the report, entitled "DHS’ Ebola Response Needs Better Coordination, Training, and Execution” (OIG-16-18), the Inspector General found that coordination between DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was lacking and the agencies failed to effectively clarify their roles and responsibilities. Also, DHS’ failure to effectively oversee implementation of its procedures related to Ebola screening or the use of personal protective equipment jeopardized the health and safety of the DHS workforce, particularly at Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

“It is disappointing to learn that DHS was not able to effectively oversee implementation of its own plans, policies, and procedures related to screening and workforce safety during its Ebola response. As a result, in the midst of a crisis, employee training and safety procedures were ad hoc, inconsistent with the gravity of the risk, and jeopardized the safety of both DHS employees and the public. We can and must do better. Swift action is essential to the health and safety of the DHS workforce and the people they serve and protect. I will closely follow DHS’ efforts to implement the corrective actions recommended by the Inspector General.”

“It is clear, however, that this lack of coordination is symptomatic of a larger problem. In the fall of 2014, it seems that no one in the Executive Branch realized that the National Response Framework had an existing leadership structure that identified HHS as the agency responsible for coordinating public health and medical services for events such as these. Unfortunately, HHS did not assume this responsibility and, over a year later, we still do not have a definitive answer as to who would be in charge if this were to happen again. We cannot afford to reinvent the wheel during every disaster. With the tools already at our disposal, there is no excuse for not having a clear Federal leadership structure in place.”

Link to Report

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Media contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978