The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that Secretary Xavier Becerra has elevated the existing Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) from a staff division to an operating division, taking on the new name of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
The move elevates ASPR to a standalone agency within the Department alongside other HHS agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), among others. This change will allow ASPR to mobilize a coordinated national response more effectively and efficiently during future disasters and emergencies in close collaboration with its sister agencies.
While the change in name and organizational status are effective immediately, the transition will be phased in over the next one to two years, and, when complete, will provide ASPR with greater administrative capabilities to help it execute its work more effectively.
“Our mission at HHS is to improve the health and wellbeing of all Americans, and our country must be prepared to respond to health-related emergencies,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The reclassification of ASPR helps strengthen our long-term preparedness posture by better positioning the division to continue coordinating health-related emergency response in collaboration with our various HHS teams.”
ASPR will continue to be led by Dawn O’Connell, who retains the title of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and will continue to advise the Secretary on preparedness and response issues and coordinate response to health-related emergencies on the Secretary’s behalf as defined in statute, in partnership with HHS’s other staff and operating divisions.
“Across the Department, we continue to look for opportunities to build on our core capabilities while also strengthening our ability to respond to future health threats,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm. “This administrative change is recognition of the growing size and scope of ASPR, which plays an important coordination role in responding to health threats and emergencies.”
ASPR, which was established in 2006, has always had operational responsibilities including the missions of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and Medical Reserve Corps. In recent years, however, particularly during the multi-year COVID-19 pandemic response, ASPR’s operational functions have grown significantly to include the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) in 2018, public health supply chain in 2020, and the establishment of the HHS Coordination Operations and Response Element (H-CORE) at the beginning of 2022.
The reclassification of ASPR as an operating division is recognition of the growing size and scope of ASPR’s mission over the years, especially in light of the multi-year COVID-19 response.