Moving at Trump Speed
Three cheers for President Trump’s success in forcing a federal bureaucracy that normally moves at the speed of a glacier to begin working at “Trump Speed.”
From the day he announced he was running, Trump’s critics have assailed him with all manner of claims that he was unfit to be President. Their real reason for inventing so many lies was that he wasn’t like them because he was a CEO instead of a bureaucrat. He had built a business empire and become wealthy by setting objectives, giving orders to his trusted staff, and holding people accountable for delivering results in a timely and effective manner.
The federal bureaucracy doesn’t work like a business. It is built on moving slowly so that it can justify continuing to employ thousands of people who study issues, consider possibilities, formulate plans, and then someday get around to recommending courses of action. Then they wait indefinite periods for decisions to be made by executives whenever it is politically expedient. When a decision is finally made or a law enacted, tens of thousands more are employed to implement the decisions and oversee citizen compliance. As a result, the federal government is the world’s largest, most inefficient, least effective, and most self-protective organization.
Contrast that with the leadership style Trump displays in almost any episode of his past hit TV series “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” where he gives the contestants a task, offers them guidance, then turns them loose to perform before measuring how well they have done. The climax of each episode is when the poorest performer is identified, he points to them and declares, “You’re fired.” A lot of contestants on those shows were surprised by the levels of performance Trump expected.
A lot of top career bureaucrats at different federal agencies thought they could resist the changes Trump promised to make when he took office, and some have resisted mightily before being surprised by the force of his commands as they have been implemented by his cabinet secretaries and other hand-picked members of his administration. People used to moving at snail speeds have been forced to move like race horses in the battle against the Wuhan virus.
Perhaps the one agency where Trump’s management style has driven the most visible changes is the Food and Drug Administration, which for decades has been derided by many in the medical community as the “Federal Delay Administration” because of how slowly they act before approving new drugs, diagnostic equipment, and medical procedures. The FDA was started in a time when people were peddling “cures” that often were poisonous, impure, or just plain ineffective. To protect consumers from medications that might be impure or cause serious side-effects, the FDA developed extensive testing protocols that had to be completed before a medicine could be sold in the U.S. Over the past 50 years those extensively detailed standards have driven up the cost of developing a new medication from just a few million dollars to sometimes more than $2 billion. During that time, much of the rest of the world caught-up to American standards and drug makers developed and gained approval for new products that relieved suffering and saved lives in their home nations, but which could not be marketed in the U.S. because they had not completed the FDA testing requirements. One FDA rule that has long frustrated physicians is that medications are approved only for treating a specific disease or family of diseases and prescribing them for “off-label” uses can get a physician in serious trouble even though the medication is safe and effective in treating the other diseases.
Soon after taking office Trump began pushing to allow the “off-label” use of medications to treat the seriously and terminally ill where their physicians saw potential benefit and getting congressional approval for the FDA to allow that was a significant milestone. Now, in the face of the Wuhan virus, he has raised the pressure on the FDA to act with lightning speed, specifically directing the FDA to suspend any rule that was causing delay. We have seen significant results. One was when a German company offered a new test showing if a patient was infected. The normal review procedure took a minimum of six weeks, but the application was approved in just three hours. When limited testing showed that chloroquine, a drug used to treat and cure malaria, was effective against the COVID-19 virus, Trump directed that the FDA move forward “with all possible speed” to conduct human testing and determine the larger-scale effectiveness of the drug. Within hours drug maker Bayer announced they were donating a million tablets to the effort to contain and cure the virus.
Such results show the measure of the man leading our nation’s efforts to battle and defeat the Wuhan virus. So we should be thankful in this trying time that we have a fast-moving CEO as President instead of a snail-speed bureaucrat.