I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it.

In a health security crisis, speed is essential. When this new coronavirus emerged, there was no clear White House-led structure to oversee our response, and we lost valuable time. Yes, we have capable and committed global and national disease-prevention and management organizations, as well as state and local health departments, all working overtime now. But even in prepared cities like Seattle, health systems are struggling to test patients and keep pace with growing caseloads. The specter of rapid community transmission and exponential growth is real and daunting. The job of a White House pandemics office would have been to get ahead: to accelerate the response, empower experts, anticipate failures, and act quickly and transparently to solve problems…

In his remarks Wednesday night, the president talked about travel bans and the resilience of the U.S. economy but made little specific mention of the public health crisis unfolding across America — exactly the kind of detail a dedicated NSC pandemics infrastructure would have pushed to address. A directorate within the White House would have been responsible for coordinating the efforts of multiple federal agencies to make sure the government was backstopping testing capacity, devising approaches to manufacture and avoid shortages of personal protective equipment, strengthening U.S. lab capacity to process covid-19 tests, and expanding the health-care workforce.

The office would galvanize resources to coordinate a robust and seamless domestic and global response. It would identify needs among state and local officials, and advise and facilitate regular, focused communication from federal health and scientific experts to provide states and the public with fact-based tools to minimize the virus’s spread. The White House is uniquely positioned to take into account broader U.S. and global security considerations associated with health emergencies, including their impact on deployed citizens, troops and regional economies, as well as peace and stability. A White House office would have been able to elevate urgent issues fast, so they didn’t linger or devolve to inaction, as with coronavirus testing in the United States. It would be in charge of sharing information and coordinating our public health and humanitarian response with partners and allies. And it would work now to prepare the United States and the world for the next pandemic, including by developing incentives for global leaders and governments to rapidly finance and fill identified gaps.