A group of senior White House officials said Thursday that they have not yet made a decision about what to do about a controversial Pentagon training program that is costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year and could put the U.N. under more pressure to respond to the deadly pandemic.
“We’re still working out some of the details of what the training would look like, the structure of the training program, the timeline,” said Caitlin Hayden, a senior White Board official.
The program, called SEON, was developed by the Office of the Special Envoy for Public-Private Partnerships (O.S., or SOAPP), a White House-led group.
It is designed to train people in a wide range of disciplines to meet the challenges of the pandemic and is intended to address issues including the training of nurses and doctors.
A review by the Government Accountability Office found that SEON has contributed to the deaths of more than 100,000 people worldwide and is responsible for hundreds of billions of dollars in costs.
Last year, the Whitehouse and the White Senate Office of Management and Budget estimated the program had cost taxpayers $17.6 billion in training and development expenses.
But Hayden said the Pentagon is still deciding how to pay for the program.
In recent weeks, the Obama administration has said that the program is needed to help combat the spread of the virus.
For example, it said it would have to spend more than $3 billion on a vaccine, an approach that would make the program more expensive to administer.
So far, the administration has not proposed any cost reductions for the SEON program, according to the GAO review.
Hayden said that while the White house has not yet settled on a course of action, she said the administration is working on a plan that would help address the cost of SEON.
She said the White HOUSE is still in the process of developing that plan.
At a briefing in the Oval Office Thursday, Hayden said that in the meantime, the government is focusing on how best to respond quickly and effectively to the pandemics pandemic, which is spreading rapidly across the globe.
On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to include $1.6 million in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to help fund SEON training.
The money will cover the costs of administering and administering SEON for five months, a period of time that will include the pandemaker deployment, Hayden added.