Biden administration seeks $65B for pandemic preparedness plan

The Biden administration on Friday unveiled its $65.3 billion plan to improve the U.S.’s pandemic preparedness strategy in the midst of COVID-19 and as the country readies for any future biological threats.

The White House wants the $65.3 billion over seven to 10 years to invest in the country’s ability to respond “rapidly and effectively” to future epidemics and pandemics, as the current COVID-19 crisis has disrupted society and killed millions worldwide.

Funding effort: Eric Lander, the director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP), told reporters that “it’s vital” to start with a commitment of $15 billion to $20 billion “to jump-start the efforts.”

The White House is also proposing the current budget reconciliation bill dedicate $15 billion to the effort, he said. Officials are in discussions with Capitol Hill about obtaining the $15 billion in the reconciliation and are “very optimistic,” Lander said.

“There’s a reasonable likelihood of another serious pandemic that could be worse than COVID-19 will occur soon, possibly within the next decade,” he added. “And the next pandemic will very likely be substantially different than COVID-19. So we must be prepared to deal with any type of viral threats.”

Apollo-style program: Officials said the pandemic preparedness effort will require the “seriousness in purpose,” “commitment” and “accountability” of former President Kennedy’s Apollo program that aimed to get Americans on the moon.

To ensure effective management of the endeavor, the administration has proposed setting up a mission control to operate as a central program management unit, but there are ongoing discussions over which agency would house the unit.