Donald Trump's philosophy of "drain the swamp" is putting millions of American lives in danger, by leaving vast numbers of crucial positions vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and elsewhere in the federal government.
Donald Trump has failed to fill almost 700 positions at the Centers for Disease Control, including many vital to emergency preparedness for potential pandemics and epidemics within the United States.
While Trump has officially lifted the federal hiring freeze, the White House and its appointees have issued internal directives within even the most critical agencies of the federal government as a way of reducing the overall federal workforce.
Most troublingly, Trump has failed to fill the position of CDC director, left vacant since January 2017, when then-director Dr. Thomas Frieden submitted his resignation, according to transition protocol.
Since then, the CDC has been under the leadership of a temporary acting director, even though the directorship is internationally recognized as "one of the most crucial public health positions in the government given the CDC's role in tracking and stopping infectious disease outbreaks in the United States and worldwide."
In addition to lacking a director, more than 125 job categories — each of which applies to multiple positions — are blocked from being filled. Vacant positions include many within the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, which stores and monitors the world's most lethal bacteria and viruses, and maintains U.S. stockpiles of necessary countermeasures in case of an outbreak.
Even programs that help advance vaccinations within the U.S. have been affected by the inadequate staffing within the CDC. Notably, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price believes mandatory vaccinations are not a federal issue, but rather a decision that should be left up to the states.
Outside of the CDC, the Trump administration has, at present, failed even to nominate anyone for 452 key positions out of 557 key positions throughout the federal government.
Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, has characterized this negligence by the executive branch as "a big part of draining the swamp" and "a centerpiece to [Trump's] campaign."
But these boasts about "draining the swamp" avoid the fact that they are talking about endangering Americans at home and abroad by purposefully refusing to staff even the highest level positions and most vital federal agencies with qualified personnel.
While Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has infamously boasted of the Trump White House's intention of "deconstructing the administrative state," few Trump voters likely anticipated this meant Trump would willingly place millions of American lives in danger.
The nation has been fortunate in not yet facing a national public health or security emergency since Trump took office. But if and when a crisis does occur under this administration, the country will be ill-prepared to manage it effectively — and countless American lives could be lost as a result.