The pandemic exposed glaring national security gaps, Taylor says, and Congress must investigate before it’s too late.
WASHINGTON, D.C./ In stinging remarks, former homeland security leader Miles Taylor chided Congress for moving too slowly to set up a Congressional commission to investigate the coronavirus pandemic. Comparing it to the body established to investigate the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Taylor said in an interview that Congress needs to act quickly.
“This delay is an affront to those who’ve perished and to the families who’ve lost loved ones,” Taylor stated. “Three thousand lives were lost on 9/11, and Congress created the 9/11 Commission to make sure such a day never happened again. More than a half-million Americans have already died from COVID-19, yet Congress is still sitting on its hands when it comes to a full-blown investigation.”
Taylor previously served as DHS Chief of Staff but quit in protest of former President Donald Trump’s misconduct, campaigning against him during the 2020 election.
Currently, several legislative proposals are floating around Capitol Hill to create a 9/11-style commission on COVID-19, but most of the bills are stalled. It’s unclear whether or when the House and Senate will take them up.
Miles Taylor on the Need for an Investigative Body
Taylor hit back against the idea that a blue-ribbon commission is an unnecessary bureaucratic step.
“Look, everyone thought they knew what happened on 9/11,” he noted. “Clearly al Qaeda attacked us, and the Bush Administration launched an immediate war on terror to bring justice to the perpetrators.”
But, he explains, it took a multi-year investigation by the 9/11 Commission—during which experts interviewed more than a thousand witnesses and held extensive public hearings—to fully uncover the security vulnerabilities that led to the attacks and to propose concrete solutions to close those gaps.
“We need a similar bipartisan body to dig into this pandemic, how it began, how it spread so rapidly, and why the government failed to follow protocols designed to avoid such a calamity,” he added. “This is a classic case of ‘who knew what, and when did they know it.’”
As former DHS Secretary John Kelly’s intelligence and security advisor, Miles Taylor oversaw a major reorganization of DHS to better protect the United States from weapons of mass destruction—as well as natural biological threats like COVID-19. But, he says, the Trump Administration failed to prioritize these efforts and ignored “on the shelf” plans for a global pandemic.
“The former President could have had a playbook on his desk in fifteen minutes, because it was already written, and it would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Taylor explained. “Instead he threw the book out the window and managed the crisis by whim. The consequences have been tragic, to say the least.”
Miles Taylor on U.S. Security Vulnerabilities
Taylor previously oversaw sensitive U.S. government efforts to thwart biological threats, and he’s concerned COVID-19 is just the beginning. “If we don’t act fast, we’ll look back at the 21st Century as an era of bio-terror fears and viral pathogens.”
Indeed, he says, man-made viruses could soon become a real worry as biotech becomes smarter and cheaper; at the same time, recent missteps around COVID-19 could be used as a “roadmap” for nefarious actors, he says. Taylor believes a COVID commission needs to take an end-to-end look at the pandemic response process and provide actionable recommendations to make sure we can act faster in the future.
Among other actions, Miles Taylor urged that the panel should examine America’s “health intelligence” apparatus to ensure the spy community has the resources, analysts, and early-warning systems to detect man-made and natural biological threats more quickly—not only to protect Americans but to hold foreign governments accountable.
“The Chinese Communist Party is complicit in millions of COVID-19 deaths because of its bungled response, lack of transparency, and efforts to spread disinformation. We can’t let something like that happen again,” Taylor urged. “We need to make sure we have real-time insight into the source and spread of dangerous pathogens, whether it’s from the other side of the world or within our own borders.”
Miles Taylor on Technology & Resilience
The most obvious way that the pandemic affected our lives is by creating more physical distance between people and forcing organizations to rethink their operations. Schools went remote, workplaces minimized or eliminated physical time at the office, and entire industries were transformed almost overnight.
“As we think about lessons learned, we need to realize there is also a bright side,” Taylor noted. “We’ve rocketed forward into the digital age faster than we would have otherwise, opening new possibilities for how we work and learn.” Taylor says it’s given us a valuable framework for expanding economic opportunity.
Between stay-at-home orders and the shift to more remote work and learning, the United States saw an incredible increase in internet load during the course of the pandemic. Just in March of 2020, the U.S. increased overall internet usage by 18 percent. That represents the fastest jump in internet demand in history. But many were left behind because of a lack of technology access.
“We need serious infrastructure investment in this country to expand connectivity in preparation for the tech advances of the next half-century,” Miles Taylor stated. “That also means connecting rural areas and underserved communities so they can participate more fully in the digital economy.”
Would a COVID commission need to point fingers? Yes, Taylor says, people need to be held accountable. “More importantly, it should point the way toward resilience—to how we can build back better, faster, and stronger.”