WASHINGTON DC (March 24, 2020) — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles "Chuck" Grassley (R-IA) is urging the leader of the US intelligence community to further incorporate and provide intelligence access to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of National Security (ONS) to strengthen the governmental response to the COVID-19 public health crisis and future health concerns.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exemplifies the need to have a robust intelligence apparatus that must include HHS, and specifically ONS, as a full partner in the fight and that partnership must extend beyond the current pandemic. The cooperation that you facilitate today between federal health agencies and the Intelligence Community will strengthen ties between them for decades to come and the American people will be better served by the increased communication,” Sen Grassley wrote.
In a letter sent today to Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Sen Grassley praises the recent pandemic-related information access granted to ONS but continues his push for full, complete, and consistent ONS access to all intelligence-community information as well as continued incorporation into missions related to the full scope of public health concerns — not just COVID-19.
Last week, Sen Grassley called for greater information sharing between US federal health and intelligence agencies in a speech on the Senate floor. He specifically counseled against the over-classification of information so that federal health officials charged with combatting the coronavirus pandemic can access relevant information. Following a classified briefing in February on the coronavirus, Sen Grassley highlighted the hard work done by the intelligence community but raised concerns about that work going to waste if federal health officials could not access the full range of information they need to do their jobs. The senator also raised this issue at a recent Finance Committee hearing with HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Full text of Sen Grassley’s letter to Grenell follows or can be found HERE.