WASHINGTON — The White House is objecting to a new report from the Government Accountability Office that concludes that seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. continues to struggle with supply chain logistics that have led to shortages of personal protective equipment and diagnostic tests.
The authors of the nearly 400-page GAO report were concerned that not only did those issues continue to persist, but that the Trump administration did not take them seriously enough. “As supply constraints continue,” those investigators wrote, “we found that [the Department of Health and Human Services] and [the Federal Emergency Management Administration] have not developed plans outlining specific actions the federal government will take to help mitigate remaining medical supply gaps needed to respond to the pandemic.”
Those challenges could soon be joined, and supplanted, by an even greater one: that of delivering a coronavirus vaccine to millions of people. The report warned that “without clearly defined roles and responsibilities, the federal response structure may be unable to respond to new supply chain challenges that could emerge.”
The report called for a “national plan” for vaccine distribution. No such plan exists. The lack of such a plan for diagnostic tests through the spring and summer led to competition, replication and confusion.
The White House, however, painted the agency’s findings as an attack on the administration. “It is well-known that the GAO is neither non-partisan or independent but simply a useful idiot for the Democrat Party and Big Labor,” White House economic adviser Peter Navarro told Yahoo News in a response forwarded by the White House communications department. “Its bureaucrats lean heavily left and contribute equally heavily to Democrat candidates. In this election season, this new ‘report’ is without merit and simply an in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign.”
GAO is an independent agency that reports to Congress, producing frequent reports on a wide range of government activities.
In response to the White House criticism, the GAO defended its report and conclusions. “For nearly a century GAO has been a source of non-partisan, fact based work for both sides of the aisle in Congress. We do work specifically at the request of both Congressional Chairs of Committees and the Ranking Members, and both turn to our subject matter experts when they are looking for facts,” Chuck Young, the GAO’s managing director of public affairs, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “The CARES Act was no exception, since it was passed with a high level of bipartisan support, and with mandates for GAO to look at how the law was being implemented. Also in this report, the agencies we looked at all got a chance to comment on our recommendations and in many cases, agreed with them. We followed the facts in this report, as we do in all our work, and we will continue to take that