Institutionalizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Independence
17 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2020 Last revised: 24 Sep 2020
Date Written: August 27, 2020
The United States response to the COVID-19 pandemic was sub-optimal. One problem in it was the politicization of the public health response. One aspect of that politicization was aggressive political intervention in CDC efforts to provide guidance and help pandemic response. The concern was strong enough that four previous CDC Director, in an unusual step, published an op-ed calling out political intervention in CDC. This article proposes two changes to strengthen the CDC’s institutional independence: codifying the CDC’s role in preventing diseases and reducing harms in a statute, and restructuring the agency to be led by a multi-member Board appointed for long times and with removal protections (along the lines of the Board of the Federal Reserve System). These changes can send a strong message that expert advice in public health should be science-based and less, rather than more, political. It can also protect CDC’s long-standing independence, while preserving some political control.
Keywords: CDC; Appointment clause
JEL Classification: H11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation