Did Trump Permanently Alter America’s Economy with Operation Warp Speed?

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.

Then when the time came, President Trump was presented with the idea of Operation Warp Speed, a plan to get vaccines paid for by the government so they could be produced quickly. He quickly agreed.

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.

Conclusions

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.

6 comments

  1. Your always thoughtful and challenging blogs make my brain hurt sometime! 🤠
    As for government involvement in anything in our country, Ronald Reagan said it best: “The Founding Fathers knew that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”
    ❤️& 🙏, c.a.

  2. That was a long and complex article, and you made a good summary of it. I would hope that DARPA is looking at many contingencies. This situation just happened to come up, and it affected the civilian population as well as the military. A plan was put together, and brought to the President. He was being advised that millions could die from the virus. I’m not sure he had any other options. President Trump was a businessman, and probably could understand the ramifications better than most other possible presidents. Most have a poor sense of business and economics, and are tied to the Washington “business as usual” approach.
    The plan itself took a new approach, basically implementing a new technology quickly by using Federal (i.e. taxpayer’s) money to bring all necessary groups together and to construct the necessary production facilities to bring vaccines on-line quickly. And doing so with several parallel efforts. The result was several vaccines were produced, distributed, and administered in record time.
    This exercise caused us to see the fallacy of outsourcing so much of our manufacturing. Much of that is just business decisions. It’s hard to compete with a country like China, where there is very little regulation compared to the USA, and the workers are treated as little more than slaves. Some is due to our mania to prevent “climate change” by shutting down factories and placing onerous environmental regulations on them.
    We have seen that the OWS model can work, and work quite well, even while recognizing that the vaccines produced fall short of the efficiency we would like. But I don’t think I want to see it become the standard. I believe there is too much of a chance of ethical problems with a large unelected bureaucracy in control of a large segment of our economy. Hopefully we have seen the results of our past mistakes in giving up our manufacturing capability, and will make improvements. But that can be done without OWS being necessary in all areas.

    • Good point about Trump being a businessman. I used to say that he ran the country like a business and that was a good thing. He was good at getting things done. They hated him for that.

  3. I got caught up in reading the Red Dawn emails, lol. Some of it is over my head, but some of it is not. Interesting reading for sure. I will not get through all of them, I am sure, but will see how far I can get. Personally, small businesses are done. Once the government gets even more involved than it already was in the business world (I’m looking at you bailouts, just the latest involvement, not the first!), it’s over. The big corporations will win out, get the money, and yes, there will be corruption. It’s unavoidable.
    “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” -Lord Acton
    The poor will become poorer, the rich will become richer. This is the way it has always been, people are sinners. They are corruptible. There might be people who try and change things, more power to them. But in the end, in THIS world, sin and the devil hold sway until Jesus returns. Hence why we look to the next life for fulfillment of God’s promises. In this world, all we can do is our best to follow God’s directions in our lives, help our fellow man as best as we are able, and wait for Jesus’ return. Praying for all of us. God Bless! (So I reread and realized I might sound a bit pessimistic, and while as a whole, I am more of a pessimist than an optimist, I am not down or worried or afraid of our future. I’m confident in God’s guidance and hand in our daily lives. I KNOW that He will see us through whatever this world throws our way.)

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