The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is incapable of dealing with a major influenza pandemic or epidemic despite spending $47 million on preparations, the agency’s own inspector general concluded.
An audit found that the department could not even keep track of stockpiles of essential supplies such as antibiotic and antiviral drugs.
The title of the scathing report prepared by Inspector General John Roth read: “DHS Has Not Effectively Managed Pandemic Personal Protective Equipment and Antiviral Medical Countermeasures.”
Roth’s auditors found a complete lack of planning, as well as vast stockpiles of medicines, supplies and equipment that are outdated or useless.
No Accurate Records
“Specifically, DHS did not keep accurate records of what it purchased and received and did not implement sufficient controls to monitor its stockpiles,” the report stated.
Some of the most disturbing revelations from the report include:
- 84 percent of the bottles of hand sanitizer in one stockpile were expired and no longer effective. Some of the sanitizer expired four years ago.
- 200,000 respirators (face or gas masks) stockpiled by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were more than five years old. The device’s manufacturer recommends that devices over that age be disposed.
- Homeland Security has stockpiled 16 million surgical masks — even though nobody at the agency knows why it needs that many masks.
- A warehouse near Washington contains 350,000 suits of white coveralls. The inspectors could find no reason why those suits had been purchased or what they were for.
- 81 percent of Homeland Security’s stockpile of antiviral drugs necessary for fighting the flu will expire in 2015. The department has stockpiled around 300,000 doses of the drugs.
- 100 percent of the department’s stockpile of the antiviral drug Tamiflu will expire next year.
- Some of the agencies within DHS were not able to supply inventories of their stockpiles. Other agencies were not about to tell auditors what had happened to supplies that they had received.
There is no official or office at Homeland Security in charge of pandemic supplies, and DHS has no strategy or plan for storage and distribution of the supplies, the report said.
“DHS may not be able to provide sufficient pandemic preparedness supplies to its employees to continue operations during a pandemic,” the report said. “Without sufficiently determining its needs, the department has no assurance it will have an adequate amount of antiviral [drugs] to maintain critical operations during a pandemic.”
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