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CDC unable to explain its reorganization plan to Congress and hiding info from GAO. Why are we not surprised? Rogue agency needs serious pruning.
WASHINGTON — Republicans aren’t impressed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reorganization plan, or its efforts to explain it.
The embattled public health agency late Tuesday sent answers to a set of GOP lawmakers’ questions on its “Moving Forward” reform, announced last spring amid building criticism of its Covid-19 response. The agency in February announced a reorganization plan that would eliminate 20 offices and add 16 new ones and has shared summary reports from its internal review, but not shared staff or external groups’, much to Republicans’ chagrin.
In a copy of the four-page response obtained by STAT, Melanie Egorin, Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for legislation, denied that the restructuring was a “large-scale” change and said “this effort was not executed behind closed doors.”
Egorin also pushed back on the charge that the reorganization would give the director more authority, saying no functions or authorities were moved out of national centers but “shifted” to others.
“The only example in which a ‘National Center’ was impacted during this reorganization was the moving of CDC’s genomics activities from the Office of Science to the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities — a shift that actually moved additional responsibilities to this Center,” she wrote.
However, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who ordered the review, is leaving the agency at the end of this month. Wednesday’s charged hearing provided a window into the challenges facing President Biden’s reported pick to lead the agency, former federal and state health official Mandy Cohen, if she assumes the role.
The letter was an “unsatisfactory” response to Republicans’ questions about CDC’s plan, particularly as the agency asks more more money and authorities, Chair Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) said during an Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing that saw Republicans and Democrats clash on who bore responsibility for public health confusion and mistrust during the pandemic, and how to fix it.
Government watchdogs are also having challenges getting answers from CDC on its Covid-19 response, an official told a House panel Wednesday.
“We do need more information,” Mary Denigan-Macauley, director of the Government Accountability Office’s public health unit, told the panel.
Lawmakers were especially at odds over whether the CDC should require more data from state and local health departments, one facet of the reform efforts that Walensky has said they need congressional support for implementing.
“I’m deeply troubled by CDCs inability to articulate any limitations on how they would or would not use this authority,” said E&C Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.), who said she had privacy concerns. “CDC has broken the trust of the American people….”