U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) last week introduced the Global Health Security and Diplomacy Act (GHSDA) to better detect, deter, and contain infectious disease outbreaks overseas before they become global pandemics.

“We must prioritize global health security the way we would any other national security threat,” said Cardin. “The coronavirus pandemic has made the global threat of infectious diseases clearer than ever – COVID-19 anywhere is a threat to everyone in the world. We are only as strong as the weakest health system, so we must work around the globe to curtail threats to public health and bolster our security at home. I look forward to working with my colleagues to move forward policies to improve the U.S. approach to detecting, deterring, and containing infectious diseases worldwide.”

“It took only six months for COVID-19 to wreak havoc across the globe and effectively shut down the American economy. If this isn’t an advertisement for why the United States needs to rebuild its international health footprint, then I don’t know what is,” said Murphy. “COVID-19 has made it clear that if we don’t stop this virus everywhere, then we haven’t stopped it anywhere. While we should be focusing efforts on fighting coronavirus in the short-term, we also need an active presence abroad to deter, detect, and stop future outbreaks in their infancy. The GHSDA does just that by authorizing $3 billion toward rebuilding our country’s pandemic defense system, investing in global vaccine efforts, and helping countries with weak health systems build up their capacity to combat infectious diseases from spreading.”

To date, GHSDA has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Global Citizen, the Global Health Council (GHC), the GHC Global Health Security Roundtable, the Global Health Technologies Coalition, Global Water 2020, Management Sciences for Health, the ONE Campaign, and PATH.

Key provisions of the senators’ legislation include:

Enhancing strategic planning:

  • Requires the president to advance a comprehensive Global Health Security Strategy with clear goals, objectives, and lines of responsibility to better guide U.S. investments in global health security, eliminate duplication and waste, and enable partner countries to close capacity gaps.

Strengthening interagency coordination and diplomatic engagement:

  • Establishes a coordinator for global health security and diplomacy at the Department of State, supported by a deputy at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to manage program coordination, lead diplomatic efforts, and ensure the efficient and effective use of U.S. foreign assistance for global health security.
  • Encourages the president to appoint a senior director for global health security to the National Security Council, to coordinate the interagency process to ensure continuity of effort across the agencies engaged in international and domestic preparedness and response.

Promoting transparency, accountability, and long-term results:

  • Prioritizes resources for partner countries with demonstrated need and commitment to transparency and results.

Strengthening USAID’s emergency response capacity:

  • Authorizes USAID’s disaster surge capacity and establishes the agency as the program lead on emergency humanitarian response and efforts to address second order development impacts.

Joining global efforts to find vaccines for epidemic diseases:

  • Authorizes U.S. participation in and funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, enabling the U.S. to join more than a dozen countries and private foundations around the world in a joint effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine and develop new vaccines to prevent and contain other epidemics.

Creating opportunities for innovation and burden-sharing:

  • Authorizes U.S. participation in innovative partnerships and financing mechanisms, including through the establishment of Trust Fund for Global Health Security, to catalyze public and private investments in global health security, infectious disease control, and pandemic preparedness and response.

Full text of this legislation can be found here.