Health and National Security: A Contemporary Collision of Cultures


Abstract: Public Health and national security have always been uncomfortable bedfellows. The public health community (or tribe) and national security community (tribe) differ on what they perceive as priority issues. How can one have a coherent set of foreign policy priorities when comparing the loss of security, life and livelihood resulting from political instability in Ukraine or Libya versus a catastrophic earthquake and cholera in Haiti? Chemical weapons in Syria, a flu epidemic in China, and food-borne diseases causing death in the US can all can shake up the more comfortable and traditional separation of health and security. The reported attempt to acquire DNA from Osama Bin Laden or his family by using a health worker as cover has highlighted the dangers of these conflicting priorities. We will discuss how the public health community could temper its tribal convictions and learn to encourage the powerful defense and foreign affairs communities to embrace relevant health issues in the first tier of policy and budget concerns. 

Speaker Bio: Real Admiral Kenneth Bernard (USPHS, Ret.) served at the White House from 2002-2005 as Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense and as Assistant Surgeon General. From 1998-2001 he was Senior Advisor for Security and Health on President Clinton’s National Security Council Staff. From 2001-2003 he was head of the U.S. Delegation negotiating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. His other positions have included Senior Advisor to Senator Bill Frist, Special Advisor for National Security, Intelligence and Defense to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Senior Political Adviser to the Director-General of the World Health Organization, International Health Attaché at the U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva, Associate Director for Medical and Scientific Affairs in the Office of International Health, Department of Health and Human Services, and as International Health Policy Advisor to the Director of the U.S. Peace Corps. Dr. Bernard is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.