GAO reports progress toward reaching HHS PHEMCE objectives

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently reviewed the timeline for the Department of Health and Human Services to meet its 72 Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise objectives, reporting it still lacks a sound budget.

The HHS outlined its plan for accomplishing the PHEMCE goals in a report it recently released. The 72 PHEMCE objectives are composed of 33 activities, 14 capabilities and 25 threat-based countermeasures that were decided to be critical in supporting the HHS's responsibilities to the nation. While the HHS has not yet made spending estimates for its programs, the GAO did report that its priorities have been organized into an achievable timeline.

The HHS organized its objectives into three groups: near-term, to be complete by 2014; midterm, to be complete by 2017; and long-term, to be complete after 2018. The objectives were organized based on priority, and each has its own milestones and intermediate steps to completion.

The HHS is monitoring its progress towards meeting the PHEMCE objectives on a monthly basis, with regular meetings scheduled to discuss incremental progress, potential challenges and solutions. To date, the HHS has completed five of the 72 priorities.

While the GAO recommended that the HHS supply more detailed spending estimates and information for optimal milestone estimations, the HHS has yet to deliver information on funding and estimated program expenses. HHS officials said they are apprehensive to provide financial estimates, as they can fluctuate and do not want estimates to affect final contract funding amounts. The officials announced plans to include budget estimates in September 2014.