Summary: Operation Warp Speed was a program designed to provide federal funding so that scientists could quickly develop vaccines for the Covid-19 pandemic. The plan was approved by President Trump, but was not designed by him. Research for mRNA vaccines had already been going on at DARPA prior to this. The plan provided $18 billion in government funding to pharmaceutical companies to manufacture the vaccines and gave them immunity for any vaccine reactions. Some believe that this type of funding program should be used to further innovation in other industries.
Operation Warp Speed and DARPA
Scientists and virologists have been concerned about the threat of a devastating pandemic for a long time. When Covid struck, the DARPA pandemic team threw all their brain power into finding a vaccine.
In April 2020, Kadlec and Marks wrote a proposal for HHS secretary Alex Azar, who in turn took it to Jared Kushner and others in the White House, who were enthusiastic. President Trump supported it and signed off on it. Azar brought in the DoD as well. (The bureaucratic history of OWS, like everything to do with it, is complex and contested.) Azar, Kushner, and others then made two hiring decisions that were crucial to Warp Speed’s success, recruiting Moncief Slaoui, a pharma executive, and Gustave F. Perna, a general, as its leaders. Slaoui, OWS’s chief adviser, had been chairman of global vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and brought pharma knowledge. General Perna, OWS’s chief operating officer, had overseen the global supply chains for the U.S. Army and brought logistical expertise.https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2021/05/inside-operation-warp-speed-a-new-model-for-industrial-policy/
People in power tried to figure out what to do about the outbreak as you can read in these Red Dawn emails.
Operation Warp Speed was mostly successful at it’s goal, although it had it’s issues. However, President Biden has attempted to take the shine off Trump’s program by removing the ‘warp speed’ from the name.
How will the example of Operation Warp Speed affect the future of American industry ?
Operation Warp Speed was an emergency funding method that took away the red tape AND the financial risk for vaccine makers. Basically the OWS was approved because Trump believed that millions would die if these vaccines were not made quickly enough by private companies.
But this type of program could set a precedent that could be duplicated to encourage and fund other innovations, such as computer chips, energy, infrastructure, housing, broadband, and pretty much any social issue.
Marco Rubio praised Trump’s actions and called it a “blueprint for policymakers”. “The fact is Operation Warp Speed represents a long-running tradition in our politics – the active partnership between government and private business for the common good of our nation, often referred to as “industrial policy.”
According to David Adler’s article, Inside Operation Warp Speed: A New Model for Industrial Policy, America business has a habit of not privately funding R&D, and the practice of outsourcing manufacturing has caused deindustrialization which has led to increased inequality and wage stagnation. This economically devastating failure to bring new innovation to market has led to slow growth and a weakened nation. But more policies like Operation Warp Speed could change everything. Otherwise, there is not much hope for our country, he says.
He argues that we need a federal program to make sure new inventions, especially those that have been developed with the help of DARPA funding, can be produced in America and not end up being produced in other countries. Otherwise, things are looking bleak for our children.
But transfer payments, even if accompanied by an opioid prescription, are not adequate compensation for a jobless future.
Why is there a lack of innovation in America? Follow the money. The cause is a lack of investing in risky R&D as well as a lack of investment in production facilities. Now that we are having supply chain issues and massive inflation, the problem is hitting home. But first the U.S. has to build the factories to make the stuff that we buy from other countries.
The author of the article above says that we cannot depend on venture capitalists anymore and that we need the government to step in where corporations have abandoned innovation. Obviously this removes the financial risk from private investors and puts it on the public. What effect will this have on small to medium sized businesses? How will they decide who gets the money?
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U.S. policymakers have therefore been left with an extremely narrow, and largely worn-out set of economic policy ideas, whether Keynesian or monetarist. There is little focus on the growth possibilities offered by innovation and how to get there beyond funding more basic science research. The current economic system is taken as given, and relies on wealth transfer as the primary mechanism of repair.
When you look back on all the events leading up to OWS, it feels pre-planned. I’m not sure how I feel about this idea of the government being so involved in business, but the reality is that the system we currently have is creating a two-tiered society. We no longer have the capitalism of the old days. Globalization changed everything. Maybe it’s time for a change.
And whether we like it or not, it appears that Biden is pushing forward with billions and billions and billions and billions for his many projects. If this is the only way to provide jobs for average workers, we may have to get used to it. However, I have this nagging feeling that the biggest corporations will benefit the most and that corruption will be hard to prevent.
Your turn: What do you think? Was OWS the only option? What was Alex Azar’s role? Was Trump set up to sign off on this plan? Did he consider the implications or did he see that he was between a rock and a hard place? Was this always the plan or was it just a convenient way to usher in big changes? Is it time for a change? Is this type of mixing government funding and business actually socialism? Will it be the death of small businesses who don’t get the government bucks? Is Biden simply continuing Obama’s agenda? Please comment below.