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Transcript: Lisa Monaco speaks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"

In this episode of "Intelligence Matters," host Michael Morell speaks with former White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco about pandemic preparedness and response by the federal government. Monaco, who helped oversee the Obama administration's response efforts during the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, explains which government agencies play key roles in managing public health crises and preparing for future outbreaks. She shares lessons learned by the teams she led and details of their transition to the Trump administration. She also discusses the current government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Intelligence Matters will dedicate several forthcoming episodes to understanding the fundamentals and national security implications of COVID-19.

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Highlights: 


ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE: 
"[I]f I were still in my old seat today, I would've expected to see intelligence about what our intelligence community was seeing emerging out of China back in January and December. I would've expected to see what they were seeing and what they were thinking and understanding about the Chinese response, the Chinese government's response. And throughout this I would be expecting to get from them information about what other countries are doing, how they are postured, how much confidence we can have in the clarity and the accuracy of the information we're getting in the public domain. So I would be looking to the IC for all of that."

LEADERSHIP IN A CRISIS: "I think the American people are looking to their leaders to level with them. And they're looking for their leaders to lead. In other words, to state clearly and consistently, 'This is the state of the problem. This is what we're facing. And here's what you can do about it,' right? And importantly, 'Here's what we don't know. But we are going to be transparent with you about that, and at what we do know, and we're going to do so credibly and clearly. And that's, first and foremost, I think what people want and need from their leaders. Clarity and compassion, and an understanding that people need to know, people need to understand that their leaders recognize what they're going through."

ON EFFECTS OF COVID-19: "[I]n the near term, I think we will be changed in very fundamental ways. I think we will not be returning to large gatherings and full restaurants and our same work environments for quite some time. I think return is going to be quite staggered and incremental for a while. And so that is going to change our sensibilities for a little while. My hope is that it doesn't fundamentally alter us, but in fact makes us more resilient and value our resiliency."


INTELLIGENCE MATTERS - LISA MONACO 
CORRESPONDENT: MICHAEL MORELL
PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS, JAMIE BENSON

MICHAEL MORELL:
Lisa, welcome back to Intelligence Matters. It's great to have you on the show again.

LISA MONACO:
Thanks so much, Michael. Great to be with you.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So this is your second time on Intelligence Matters, and you should know, I don't think I ever told you this, but you should know that your first time was one of our most-listened to episodes.

LISA MONACO:
That's nice to hear.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Absolutely no surprise for me, because you have this terrific way about you of explaining complex things that smart journalists can understand them, so no surprise to me.

LISA MONACO:
Thank you.

MICHAEL MORELL:
We're going to spend this entire episode today talking about the coronavirus. And I think given that, perhaps the best place to start is helping people understand why I'm talking to you. So as President Obama's homeland security  and CT advisor, part of your portfolio included pandemics and epidemics and public health issues. Is that right?

LISA MONACO:
That's exactly right. Yup.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Go ahead, please.

LISA MONACO:
Yeah, what I was going to say is as you know, Michael, the role that I occupied in the White House, Homeland Security Advisor, was a relatively new phenomenon. It was created by President George W. Bush after 9/11. But it has evolved, or it did evolve over the course of President Bush's presidency and President Obama's presidency to encompass everything from terror attacks on Americans abroad and in the homeland, cyber-attacks, natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, you name it, floods, and of course pandemic preparedness and response. And during my time in the White House for President Obama in the entire second term, that, of course, meant helping lead the response to the Ebola epidemic in 2014 and 2015.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So can you, Lisa, talk about in general what your role was with regard to those issues and what you saw, or more importantly, what President Obama saw as your responsibilities?

LISA MONACO:
Sure. So the role of the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, broadly speaking, with respect to all of the issues that we've just mentioned, whether it's terrorism, cyber-attacks, cyber security, pandemics, and natural disasters, is to be first and foremost the person in the White House directly and immediately responsible to the president, focusing 24/7 on those issues. From a policy perspective, from a response perspective.

So what does that mean? That means every morning when I would get my intelligence briefing, those are the issues that I'm focused on, in addition to the same pieces of intelligence and finished intelligence products that the president is getting. My book, my PDB book, as you know, would be constructed in a way that had those things that the president was looking at, but also issues, intelligence products focused on the set of issues that were in my portfolio.

And I'm focusing on those issues, what to talk to the president about in the mornings, and then coordinating the government's policy development and implementation on all of those issues. And then in a crisis, making sure that the government, all the different aspects of the government, are working together as efficiently and effectively as possible to address the top needs in the middle of a crisis. And so when something like Ebola, or in this type of crisis that we're in right now, that's going to involve lots of different moving pieces.

MICHAEL MORELL:
And so if this happened, if this coronavirus outbreak happened during your time in the White House, you would've been right at the center of it.

LISA MONACO:
That's exactly right. As I was for Ebola, which is obviously, as I'm sure we'll talk about and as I'm sure your listeners know, a very different type of disease. But a lot of similarities in terms of what the government's got to focus on and what it should be doing.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah, I want to get to that. But before we do that, let me ask you who the key players in the executive branch were in supporting you in dealing with the pandemic part of your portfolio. Who were they? And then what were your expectations of each of them?

LISA MONACO:
Sure. The key players in a response to a pandemic, or in the case of Ebola an epidemic, obviously first and foremost you're going to be involving those in the healthcare and public health policy settings. So that's the head of the Centers for Disease Control, the head of Health and Human Services, the head of the FDA, and of course, the top infectious disease experts. So Tony Fauci, who's now nearly a household name.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah, he's a hero--

LISA MONACO:
The concept of (UNINTEL) and a hero, justifiably so I will say, Michael. I know you know him, and I worked very closely with him during Ebola. He is indeed a national treasure. So he's--

MICHAEL MORELL:
I saw--

LISA MONACO:
--going to be right at the center--

MICHAEL MORELL:
--a tweet the other day where he was being nominated as the world's most sexiest man.

LISA MONACO:
I know. I can only imagine that that is something he never thought he would be seeing. So all of those folks, quite obviously. But importantly, the State Department, the folks at USAID, the agency for international development, the intelligence community, the Department of Homeland Security, who, of course, have responsibility for borders and transportation.

The State Department shouldn't be forgotten here because there's so much that goes into a global response, or should go into a global response. And diplomacy in the response to Ebola, it took a global effort, a global diplomatic effort to contain that, working with the brave folks in West Africa to contain that disease.

And then, of course, the military. The military was a very important aspect of the Ebola response. We're seeing, obviously, parts of the military getting mobilized in response to the coronavirus. And, of course, I should mention here if folks don't know, when I reference the Department of Homeland Security, that would also include, of course, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So what did you expect--

LISA MONACO:
So those are the main players.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah. So what did you expect from the IC?

LISA MONACO:
So the IC, I would expect and what I saw and did get in my former role is both an early warning system as well as a source of continuous analysis about what other countries, what is the international response, how are other countries dealing with the epidemic, with the pandemic.

So I would've expected, if I were still in my old seat today, I would've expected to see intelligence about what our intelligence community was seeing emerging out of china back in January and December. I would've expected to see what they were seeing and what they were thinking and understanding about the Chinese response, the Chinese government's response. And throughout this I would be expecting to get from them information about what other countries are doing, how they are postured, how much confidence we can have in the clarity and the accuracy of the information we're getting in the public domain. So I would be looking to the IC for all of that.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Is there a difference in how you think about early warning from the IC versus early warning from CDC?

LISA MONACO:
So I guess in some respects, yes. I would expect the IC to give me their best assessment about what, for instance, the Chinese government is doing and how they are approaching their posture with regard to the pandemic internally. I would expect the CDC to be giving policymakers their best insight from a public health perspective, quite obviously. How does the virus operate? What are they hearing from and getting from in talking to their public health colleagues around the world? That would be the information I'd be expecting to get from CDC.
MICHAEL MORELL:

And then all of this needs to be lashed together, right? What the IC knows CDC needs to know.

LISA MONACO:
Absolutely.

MICHAEL MORELL:
And you kind of brought that together around your table, right?

LISA MONACO:
That's exactly right. So you'd have all of those players that you and I have just talked about who would get together quite literally in the same room, in the Situation Room. And that has to happen. And the only place really that can effectively happen, Michael as you know, is in the White House.

And that's the job of the National Security Council, and it was the job, and I viewed it as my job as Homeland Security Advisor, particularly when the issues are going to have such a direct and immediate impact on the homeland where they do have to knit together these different policy issues and response issues. They've got to come together in one place, and that is the Situation Room.

And it's only in that room that you can really make sure that all that information is getting shared, and the public health professionals who, frankly, outside the context of a pandemic or an epidemic, don't spend a whole hell of a lot of time in the Situation Room, right? But they absolutely need to be there for these discussions, right alongside the kind of more traditional, if you will, players in the national security community, like the State Department, like the IC.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So I hear you saying, Lisa, that you had two jobs at the end of the day with regard to pandemics, epidemics. One was dealing with actual outbreaks, right?

LISA MONACO:
Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:
And then the second would be preparing for future outbreaks, right?

LISA MONACO:
Sure.

MICHAEL MORELL:
And the Obama administration, as you've already mentioned, had I think three outbreaks to deal with, H1N1 in 2009 before you got there, and then Ebola in 2014, and then Zika in 2015-2016. You personally worked on the latter two.

LISA MONACO:
That's right.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Can you walk us through sort of the story of one of those or both of those, whatever you see fit, with an eye towards what did you learn from those experiences about what's important and what works, what doesn't?

LISA MONACO:
Sure. With respect to Ebola, that was really a situation where, as we saw this developing in West Africa, all the action, if you will, was international. We were watching it emerge in West Africa, the World Health Organization, which, of course, is the international organization charged with responding to global pandemics and major public health events.

I think by any measure that was a slow response. And as we put our response in place, what became very clear is we needed to have both a very forward-leaning global response, and an international response centered in West Africa, all the while while we were putting together and beefing up our domestic capabilities.

So what did that mean? It meant making sure we were thinking simultaneously about the international response effort, the diplomacy, the military deployment, because of course President Obama ended up deploying some 3,000 troops in something called Operation United Assistance, to work with allies like the U.K. and France in countries in West Africa to build up capacity to contain the outbreak there.

At the same time, we were very concerned that we would get an influx of cases here in the United States, and we needed to make sure we had a public health capacity not only to screen travelers, which we ended up putting in place, a system to funnel, literally take incoming flights and only have them come to certain airports.

I think we chose about five airports around the country for those flights to just come in to so that we could establish a screening process with local public health officials, and then track potential cases. And then also make sure that we had a network of hospitals where people were trained up to deal with this very deadly, very sophisticated disease that didn't crop up often in the United States.

So we had to do all of those things at once. All the while, I and Susan Rice who was, at the time, the National Security Advisor, were dealing with a whole host of other issues. So the president, rightly, named Ron Klain as the person to come in and focus 100% of his time on making sure the government was working together on both this international and this domestic response.

And what we learned is, and this is something Ron recommended to the president as he was leaving his post as the Ebola Response Coordinator, he said, "You should never again, Mr. President, have to create a disease-specific czar. You ought to have that capability resident constantly in the National Security Council staff."

And the president and his National Security team took that advice. And so we set up something called the Global Health Security and Biodefense Directorate, a unit within the National Security Council staff who would focus every day, all day, 365 days a year, on pandemic preparedness policy and response, getting ready for the next Ebola, the next Zika, the next God forbid new strain of flu or novel virus. Just like we have a dedicated unit to constantly think about, "Where is the terror threat coming from?" And, "What should be our policy and our response capability there?" We established this dedicated unit for pandemic issues.

MICHAEL MORELL:
And that was removed not so long ago, correct?

LISA MONACO:
Yeah. Unfortunately, while that group, which was staffed by career public health foreign service officers and career people who had been drawn from around the government, experts in infectious disease and public health policy, et cetera, they transitioned -- as does 99% of the National Security Council staff that are all career folks who don't have any particular political allegiance in their job, they are career subject matter experts.

So they transitioned from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. And they stayed in place for a little while. But in the spring of 2018, unfortunately that group, that unit within the National Security Council staff, was disbanded. And its career leader, Admiral [Tim] Ziemer, who's a very well regarded official and expert on these issues, was reassigned.

And at the same time, incidentally Michael, my successor, Tom Bossert, who had taken over and come in at the beginning of the Trump administration as the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, he also was removed. So you had, for the first time since 9/11, as of the spring of 2018, no empowered Homeland Security Advisor who was at the highest rank of staff in the White House, at the assistant to president level, focused on these issues. And you had the dismantlement of this pandemic or Global Health Security Unit.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So no staff to reach to.

LISA MONACO:
No staff to reach to, and no staff to really, importantly Michael, be that kind of alarm, right? We talked about getting the early warning from the IC, they would be the first ones to get it, as you know, right? And in fact, I remember quite specifically when Ebola started in 2014, it was the staff who were, at the time, part of the Homeland Security staff within the White House who came to me and said, "We're seeing stuff that we're concerned about. "We're worried about this uptick of Ebola cases in West Africa." And they were the early warning system, kind of the smoke alarm, if you will, before we saw this really blossom into a full-blown fire.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So you guys were concerned, and I want to get your sense of how concerned, that Ebola could make its way from West Africa to the United States of America.

LISA MONACO:
Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, one of the scariest calls I've ever received in my job at the White House didn't have anything to do -- frankly, I'm not sure if you and I ever talked about this before, Michael. Although you and I had some scary calls when you were in your former job.

But one of the scariest calls I ever received was from Tom Frieden, who was at the time the head of the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control. And he said, it was a Sunday night, as I recall. And he called me and he said, "We have a case." It was an Ebola case in Lagos in Nigeria. And he was very concerned, rightly so, that in the most populous country in Africa, with 1,000 flights a day out of Lagos into all points of the globe, you had a positive case. So that was very sobering.

And yes, we absolutely were concerned that it could come here. And took the steps I mentioned from a screening of travelers perspective to address it. And I will say, those measures I think were some of the same ones that were used in the last couple of months in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

MICHAEL MORELL:
You know what's interesting? I was out of government by that point, so I was watching this from the outside. And I don't think there was a sense among the general population about the significance of the risk. And maybe it's just human nature, right, until it actually shows up people don't start worrying. But I don't remember among the population a general worry that Ebola was about ready to show up, although certainly I can understand your concern. It's just very interesting.

LISA MONACO:
It's interesting, because my perspective on that was there was tremendous concern, although it was not commensurate with what the actual risk was. So, for instance, there was a great deal of panic and, frankly, a lot of misinformation out there about what the disease was, how you could and couldn't get it.

And, frankly, there was a lot of hysteria, as I recall, that prompted calls for things like travel bans and quarantines. And so one of the things, and this was a big lesson from Ebola, and one that we took to heart in our response to Zika, and one that I think informs and should inform our response to COVID, which is the most important thing you can do as a policymaker and as a lead in a pandemic or an epidemic public health issue, is to speak clearly, consistently, and credibly.

And be guided by science and facts. That was the directive from day one in Ebola from President Obama. And he said, "We are going to have a science-based, fact-based approach to all of the policy steps we take." So for instance, when there was a big kind of drumbeat for total travel bans when it came to Ebola, the science didn't support that.

The public health experts were not supportive of that. Why? For two reasons. One, because in fact the facts about how you could get Ebola were quite different from what people thought. In other words, it is not nearly as transmissible as something like flu or something like coronavirus.

You have to have very intimate contact with somebody who is very sick during the height of their being very, very sick. Very, very different, of course, from what we're experiencing now. And the other concern that the public health professionals had, people like Tony Fauci and others said, "Look, if you ban travel, how are you possibly going to get public health workers to go and do what we absolutely need them to do to help contain this virus in West Africa if they think they're not going to be able to come back?" Right? So the directive was, and our ethos was be science-based, be fact-based, and don't fall prey to the hysteria. And repeat, as often as possible, the facts that guide your response.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So in the second aspect of your job, preparing for future outbreaks, you guys established this group inside the NSC staff. What did you have them do? What work did they do that was different from before, in terms of planning for a future outbreak?

LISA MONACO:
So one of the things we did, and at, this is a lesson out of Ebola, was they put together a playbook, if you will. It's now been reported on, and is the subject of a story in Politico I believe it was, a couple weeks ago. But one of the things we said was, "Look, frankly, we probably were too slow in responding and getting our kind of act together as a federal government and as an interagency, to respond to Ebola.

"Let's take those lessons learned. Let's put them down in a playbook for our successors, for the people who come after us who are inevitably going to be dealing with some public health crisis. And here are the steps that we think, and the indicators that you should be looking for, for the types of decisions you're going to need to make, right?

When should you be engaging with the public health community about certain messaging? When should you be thinking about activating the national stockpile? Here are a whole series of questions that were very, very focused on the role of the coordinators of a governmental response inside the National Security Council staff. So that was one thing that we did. And we also put together an exercise, if you will, a war game for the transition.

So in the fall of 2016, quite obviously, we were very focused on making sure there was a very professional and comprehensive transition between the administration of President Obama and the incoming team from President-Elect Trump. And we put together an exercise for the incoming National Security Team and the outgoing National Security Team, to sit down and really talk through, "What are the issues you've got to be worried about, and what kind of things are going to be coming at you?"

And, "Here are some of the lessons that we learned." And we did that for a terrorism scenario, a cyber scenario, a hurricane, and importantly, I said that we needed to add a pandemic scenario to this exercise, because I was so concerned and thought that it would be a certainty that the next administration would deal with some type of public health crisis.
MICHAEL MORELL:
This is the now famous meeting from January 13th that everybody's written about, right?

LISA MONACO:
That's right. Yeah, it was the week before the inauguration.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Is there anything, Lisa, that you wish you would've done more of in terms of preparation?

LISA MONACO:
Sure. I think that the new strain of flu was the thing that we were very, very focused on as kind of the nightmare scenario. And frankly, that was the scenario that we used in the exercise. Because we, frankly, thought we probably dodged a bullet with Ebola because it wasn't as transmissible as something like flu or something like coronavirus. And I think there's a whole set of issues around preparedness for that with vaccine development and the like that we probably could've been doing more to break down--

MICHAEL MORELL:
Stockpiling?

LISA MONACO:
--barriers.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Is that an issue or not--

LISA MONACO:
Well, we don't have, obviously, a universal flu vaccine. So it wasn't a question of developing that so much as improving our capability to move quickly with the private sector on getting a vaccine rolling, you know? It was something that we tried to improve upon with the Ebola vaccine.

But I think there's always more to be done there. With stockpiling, which has now become a very big issue, as people are rightly focused on the stockpile, my sense, Michael, is there will be, in the inevitable kind of look back on the response to coronavirus, there will and should be, I think, a good, hard look at how we have a sustainable source of funding for both innovative drugs and pharmaceuticals that can respond to public health emergencies, as well as basic personal protective equipment and masks and ventilators and the like.

I think the story that has emerged is that budget constraints required a lot of tradeoff decisions. And you've seen the outgoing head of the stockpile say that he had to make very hard calls, and decided to spend money for the stockpile, limited funds, to purchase medical countermeasures that otherwise there'd be no market for other than a government purchaser.

And so he used his limited budget monies to do that, rather than purchase PPE, which can be developed more quickly through the supply chain. Now, frankly, what we've seen is that it takes some swift action to get that supply chain rolling. My own view is we should've started that a lot sooner, back in December and January when we saw this emerging from China.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Would your guess be that there's going to be even more focus on this going forward? Or is there a risk that it kind of comes and goes, and we slip back into taking some things for granted? What's your sense?

LISA MONACO:
Yeah. So I think there is always that danger, as you know government and policymakers respond in the wake of a crisis, but it's always hard to maintain that focus. Now, we saw our country and our culture really shift and change after 9/11. And the focus on terrorism became something that was sustained and it really altered the structure of government, altered our society in so many ways.

And so that was a crisis where the focus remained. I actually think that we're going to have a similar response to this, where it has taken this just profound tragedy and incredible crisis, both public health and economic, to get us to have a sustained focus on public health issues and pandemic preparedness and response, which I believe ought to be treated as the national security issue that it is, and receive that sustained focus.

MICHAEL MORELL:
And I wonder to what extent the national security community, the IC in particular, will see this going forward as a more fundamental part of their job, right? All the way from monitoring on the ground and helping CDC think about warnings to the right collection against governments that might not be telling us the full truth, to doing the analysis on all the issues you talked about. I would think that would become a higher priority.

LISA MONACO:
I would think it would. And as you know, I think you can imagine, Michael, if you and I were both back in our old roles, we'd be having discussions at how we ought to be altering the requirements, right?

MICHAEL MORELL:
Right.

LISA MONACO:
And the intelligence priorities on exactly these issues. And--

MICHAEL MORELL:
You'd be calling me all the time, asking for things.

LISA MONACO:
I would be. Right. And having, I think, a very needed discussion on what tradeoffs would that require? What issues of trust might that engender between the public health and intelligence communities? It's actually eerily reminiscent, Michael, of how we had to break down the wall between the law enforcement and intelligence community in the wake of 9/11. The public health community and the intelligence community, they don't usually talk to each other, in my experiences of government--

MICHAEL MORELL:
Right. I had a reporter call me the other day and said, "Does CIA work with the CDC?" And I said, "Look, I haven't been there for seven years, I don't know. But when I was the deputy director I was never aware of any interaction at all between CIA and CDC."

LISA MONACO:
Right. And look, and there's very real concerns, and there should be, from the public health and the medical community about making sure that the communities they operate in, they can be trusted, right? And they're not seen as collectors. And so we should never undermine their credibility in those settings.

But by the same token, we've got to improve our capability. And look, in this issue everything I've read publicly, which is, of course, the only thing I have access to, indicates that the intelligence community did give warning and was on top of this. And the question is, what were the policymakers doing with it?

MICHAEL MORELL:
So Lisa, with all of that as background, and as far as you can tell from the outside looking in, on the coronavirus outbreak, as a government, are we now where we need to be? Or do we still have some way to go to get there? From a policy management sense of this, what's your sense of that?

LISA MONACO:
So I think we're not where we need to be. I should say, I think we've made a lot of strides in the last couple of months. My concern is that we did squander about ten weeks between seeing this emerge in December and January and then really starting to activate the federal government in, frankly, the middle of March.

It wasn't till the middle of March when you saw the White House and the federal government really kind of kick into gear from a policy perspective. I think the public health community and the vaccine folks and the like were working, but to really get guidance from the federal government about things like social distancing and the like, that didn't happen till mid-March, and frankly, it was following the states, right?

You had a series of very aggressive governors and mayors taking steps. And then the federal government was coming behind there. And it wasn't until mid-March where a national disaster and Stafford Act declaration was kicked in to allow states to access a big pot of disaster relief monies and the like. So I think that we are not where we need to be.

We're not where we need to be on testing. Testing, as our former colleague Juliette Kayyem used this phrase, "Testing is the original sin," or, "Failure on testing is the original sin in this response." And I think it's true. And it's going to be critical to have a comprehensive testing capability if we're going to be able to return to some semi-normalcy, right? That's only going to be in conjunction with a capability to test widely, and we're not there yet.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Without risking a second wave.

LISA MONACO:
That's exactly right. Because returning to work is going to involve understanding where those case spikes are. And we're not going to possibly do that without both diagnostic testing and testing for potential immunity.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So you talked earlier, Lisa, a little bit about the importance of leadership in these kind of situations. What's your sense, having gone through Ebola and Zika, of what the American people need from their leaders at a moment like this?

LISA MONACO:
So the leadership is critical in, quite obviously, in communication first and foremost, right? I think the American people are looking to their leaders to level with them. And they're looking for their leaders to lead. In other words, to state clearly and consistently, "This is the state of the problem. This is what we're facing. And here's what you can do about it," right?

And importantly, "Here's what we don't know. But we are going to be transparent with you about that and at what we do know, and we're going to do so credibly and clearly." And that's, first and foremost, I think what people want and need from their leaders. Clarity and compassion, and an understanding that people need to know, people need to understand that their leaders recognize what they're going through. They're not minimizing it. But they're also giving them something to do, a sense of agency.

MICHAEL MORELL:
So we just have a couple more minutes here. I'd like to ask you two more questions. One is if you think about the countries that have done well at managing this and the countries that haven't done so well, what do you think the differences are?

LISA MONACO:
I think some of the differences are speed, moving quickly, right? The biggest thing in a crisis is to be willing to really pull the trigger and to make what seems like a very hard call. And the fear is people are going to think you're overreacting, and you can't let that stop you, right?

Because it's in looking back and wishing that you'd acted more quickly that you run into problems. So speed, decisiveness, and a willingness to speak clearly about the problem. And then, frankly, also what we've seen is those countries that were willing to put in place measures, and quite drastic measures when you think about it, based on our sense of civil liberties and freedom of movement, those who have been able to flatten the curve quickly are the ones who put in place very quickly measures that are quite foreign to us, and do not jive with the American sensibility.

MICHAEL MORELL:
And then the last question, Lisa, we talked about how this may change the preparedness for a pandemic going forward, how this might change the way the traditional national security community sees a role here. Do you think this is going to change us as a society in fundamental ways? Or too soon to tell? You see all of these op-eds with people saying, "Here's the ten ways we're gonna change," right? "Here's the nine ways we're gonna change." Is it too early to talk about those things or not?

LISA MONACO:
I think it is a little bit early to talk about those things, although I understand it, right? Everyone wants to see, wants to understand where is the light at the end of the tunnel? When will I be able to get my life back? And so it's, I think, quite natural to think about, "What is that life going to look like?"

And in the near term, I think we will be changed in very fundamental ways. I think we will not be returning to large gatherings and full restaurants and our same work environments for quite some time. I think return is going to be quite staggered and incremental for a while. And so that is going to change our sensibilities for a little while. My hope is that it doesn't fundamentally alter us, but in fact makes us more resilient and value our resiliency.

MICHAEL MORELL:
Lisa, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.

LISA MONACO:
Thanks for having me.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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