Department of Homeland Security officials aren’t ready to deal with a pandemic disease sweeping across the United States, according to a government watchdog.
But eight years later, DHS cannot ensure it “has sufficient personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures for a pandemic response,” the IG said in a report completed in August but made public Monday.
In addition, the IG said, DHS did not develop and implement stockpile replenishment plans or inventory controls to monitor stockpiles, have adequate contract oversight processes, or ensure compliance with Department guidelines, the IG said.
As a result, “DHS also has no assurance that the supplies on hand remain effective,” the IG said.
As specific illustrations of how woefully unprepared DHS is, the IG noted these specific problems:
• DHS has a reported inventory of approximately 16 million surgical masks without demonstrating a need for that quantity.
• Personal protective equipment stockpiles include expired hand sanitizer. Out of 4,982 bottles examined, 4,184, or 84 percent, were expired, some by up to 4 years.
• 81 percent of antiviral drugs acquired by the DHS Office of Health Affairs component will expire by the end of 2015.
• DHS and its components do not know where its personal protective equipment is located, how much it has and the usability of the stockpiles that exist.
Pandemics are relatively rare in the U.S., but the country has experienced some devastating examples, including the flu outbreak in 1918 that killed an estimated 675,000 Americans and 20 million people worldwide before it was contained.
More recently, an Asian flu pandemic in 1957 killed nearly 70,000 Americans, and a 1993 outbreak of Cryptosporidium was responsible for the deaths of more than 100 people.
This post has been corrected to reflect the fact 675,000 Americans died in the 1918 flu epidemic, not the 20 million previously stated.
Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Washington Examiner.