The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week established the Office of Health Security, a new office that will serve as the principal medical, workforce health and safety, and public health authority for DHS. “Over the past several years, Americans have faced a series of unprecedented challenges impacting their health security, from the pandemic to natural disasters and more,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Our Department must be prepared to adapt to an ever-expanding, dynamic, and complex public health threat landscape. The Office of Health Security will lead our efforts to meet that charge.” Led by DHS’s Chief Medical Officer, the Office of Health Security will unify the Department’s medical, workforce health and safety, and public health functions under one organization. DHS adds that the reorganization will pioneer best-in-class workforce health, safety, work-life and wellness programs, and suitable, timely care for noncitizens in the department’s care and custody. “The Office of Health Security will an organizational structure and design that enables coordination, standardization, and accountability across the DHS enterprise while helping enhance our workforce and nation’s preparedness, response, and resilience to the health impacts of terrorism and other disasters.” “I am honored to lead the new Office of Health Security, which will unite and elevate the outstanding public health, workforce health and safety, and medical expertise that exist across the Department,” said Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Pritesh Gandhi. “We will focus on promoting a healthier and safer workforce, supporting appropriate and timely medical care for those in our care and custody, ensuring a robust health security posture, and being a strong partner and advocate with and for our interagency and community partners.”
Department officials have collaborated closely with congressional leaders to create the Office of Health Security, building on longstanding efforts to establish and strengthen the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD). Moving forward, DHS will continue working hand-in-hand with Chairman Gary Peters, Ranking Member Rob Portman, and other members of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on legislation to permanently authorize the Office of Health Security and CWMD. Lessons from recent years reinforce the urgent necessity for consolidating and streamlining health security activities within DHS. Since early 2020, the Department has managed a wide range of medical and public health responses, including leading Operation Allies Welcome; contributing significantly to the America’s COVID-19 pandemic response; leading “Operation Vaccinate Our Workforce” for DHS employees; managing a significant increase in unaccompanied children arriving at the Southwest Border; and addressing the increased prevalence and impact of natural disasters.