Public Health Emergencies as Threats to National Security
9 Georgetown J. of Nat. Security L & Pol __ (2016)
12 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 12, 2016
Protecting the nation from a diverse array of public health threats remains a consummate objective of federal, state, and local governments. Achieving it is no simple task. Threats to the public’s health are multifarious, unpredictable, and downright scary in many cases. Legitimate and irrational fears are stoked by significant levels of distrust of government or industry.
Americans’ trepidations of public health threats invariably beget responses among federal, state, and local governments even if the actual risks to domestic populations are infinitesimally low. Still, for decades, national, state, and local government leaders often classify these and other conditions as emergencies through different legal authorities.
Recently, federal leaders and agencies have re-conceptualized the nature of public health emergencies in terms of national security, reflecting a shift in national authority and accountability. Multiple Presidents and other federal officials speak in terms of how public health events pose national security threats (NSTs) or national security priorities (NSPs). As discussed in this Commentary, classifying public health concerns as national security threats presents uncertainties with practical and legal implications. Practical implications include the augmentation of federal influence, resources, and powers to coordinate responses internationally and at home. Labeling public health emergencies as national security events can alter how federal, state, and local governments respond legally to public health crises now and in the future.
Keywords: Emergency, National Security, Public Health, Threats
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