A welcome from Commission Co-Chair Admiral Bill Fallon
July 18, 2009
It is an honor and pleasure to be co-chair of the CSIS Commission on Smart Global Health Policy. We welcome your interest in the Commission and hope you will remain engaged and share with us your thoughts. In this opening communication I wish to explain a bit about why I chose to become invested in this important enterprise, and outline a few of the concerns that are most on my mind as the Commission moves forward.
I spent more than 40 years of my life serving the country in the U.S. Navy. When I was in college and coming up through the Navy ranks, security was defined as the business of competing sovereign state actors with defined borders who pursue hard national interests. However, over time, I came to appreciate that security today is defined in a broader and more personal context. Particularly when it comes to health, security has significant trans-sovereign and highly personal dimensions.
Human security is about basic day-to-day existence -- how people relate to each other, their families, their jobs and their communities. At the heart of human security is health.
At the global level is the shared reality that quickly emerging infectious diseases can cross borders and threaten the security of people and their societies. SARS, avian influenza, the H1N1 pandemic flu; these are very much with us, and require long-term solutions that can only succeed through collaboration that cut across national borders.
This last point follows from my realization, gleaned over the decades, and especially as I found myself as Commander in the Pacific and the Middle East, that things might be different if we made modest up-front investments in developing countries and gave high priority to the prevention of health catastrophes in fragile societies. There is much more we can do on both the civilian and military fronts to advance that notion, to build global preparedness. I am very hopeful the CSIS Commission can advance our thinking about how to best invest in creating the capacities in developing countries to detect and respond to emerging disease outbreaks, and be more effectively linked with the detection and response systems of other countries.
Doing better will require us to overcome fragmentation in our approaches and to achieve higher efficiencies. It is our duty to figure out how we can better leverage investments to meet world expectations. We need to clearly identify gaps in health, find cost-effective ways of closing those gaps, and develop an action plan with accompanying metrics, to get there.
Doing better to promote global health is not going to be quick nor easy work, as I’ve discovered. These challenges have been with us for a long time and many people – like my esteemed co-chair Dr. Helene Gayle – have dedicated their lives to wrestling with these issues. And they have done great work. The necessary improvements will likely take time in coming to fruition, made possible through investments that are strategically planned and implemented and carried out over several decades.
Fortunately, our country enjoys immense blessings and resources and we have a tradition and culture of generosity toward the rest of the world. At this point in time, many people in the world are hopeful that the United States can and will make their lives better. Our aim with this Commission is to do just that in the area of health. Thanks for being a part of this important effort.
- Admiral Bill Fallon