HHS Elevates Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to Standalone Agency

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The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) had been renamed and elevated to stand-alone agency status.

In name, the office officially became the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, keeping the same abbreviation but changing from a personnel division to an operational division. On a practical level, this means that it now shares the same level of independent authority as agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will allow the administration to exercise greater central authority over future disasters and emergency response.

“Our mission at HHS is to improve the health and well-being of all Americans, and our country must be prepared to respond to health-related emergencies,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “The ASPR reclassification helps strengthen our long-term preparedness posture by better positioning the division to continue to coordinate health-related emergency responses in conjunction with our various HHS teams.”

Despite the change in status, the ASPR will not face any change in management. He will continue to be guided by Dawn O’Connell. She will oversee a growing division with increased reach, with her position notably strengthened by the multi-year COVID-19 pandemic.

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