Lack of HHS Secretary, Other Key Positions Not Affecting Administration’s Response to Swine Flu, White House Says
The Obama administration must address the public health emergency regarding swine flu, the administration's first medical outbreak, without an HHS secretary or appointees to any of the department's 19 key positions, Politico reports. In addition to a lack of HHS secretary, Obama has yet to name a surgeon general or CDC director, and the president's nominee for FDA administrator is currently awaiting confirmation.
As a result of the "holes" in the White House team, Obama has tapped acting CDC Director Richard Besser, Director of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and homeland security adviser John Brennan to handle the current crisis. According to White House aides, Obama has received several briefings daily on the outbreak and an interagency team has been in constant communication, Politico reports.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "I want to be very clear here: There is a team in place. Part of it is standing behind me, and part of it is working as we speak to identify exactly what (Besser) and others have talked about," adding, "This notion that somehow that if there is not currently a secretary, that there is not the function that needs to take place to prepare for either this or any other situation, is just simply not the case. ... I think it's all hands on deck, and we're doing fine" (Budoff Brown, Politico, 4/26).