While it's too early to tell if the label "Mike Brown" will become a permanent fixture in the English language, it's definitely been in vogue in the last month to describe inexperienced political appointees in the Bush administration with the disgraced former FEMA director's name. The latest charge of being a "Mike Brown" has been applied to the head of the Department of Health and Human Services's biodefense program Stewart Simonson, according to Monday's Congressional Quarterly (CQ).
Simonson is in charge of the $5.6 billion dollar Project Bioshield--an initiative to spur pharmaceutical companies to develop and produce vaccines and other biowarfare countermeasures. This summer, before Congress, HHS and Bioshield were harshly criticized for the slow pace of vaccine procurement.
Especially critical of Simonson has been Jerome M. Hauer, who previously held Simonson's position and is now a consultant for several biodefense firms (Hauer is yet another administration official who has passed through the revolving door. Hauer now sits on the board of directors of Emergent Biosolutions, the parent company of Bioport, the primary manufacturer of the Defense Department's anthrax vaccine. Bioport did not get the primary Bioshield anthrax vaccine contract for the Strategic National Stockpile, instead an upstart competitor, VaxGen, won. Bioport has been critical of Bioshield and of VaxGen.) Hauer said of Simonson, "He's the Mike Brown of HHS." "What are his qualifications?"
CQ lists the following as Simonson's background:
Simonson is an attorney who previously served as special counsel to the secretary and deputy general counsel at HHS. Before joining the department, he was corporate secretary and counsel for Amtrak.
In the 1990s, Simonson worked for then-Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson — who later became HHS secretary from 2001 to 2005 — as legal counsel, directing crime and corrections policy development and coordinating the state’s public safety agencies, according to his online biography.
According to several experts Simonson's lack of technical and scientific expertise is harming HHS's efforts. Michael Greenberger, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Homeland Security, told CQ, “...the whole vaccine program is floundering in the absence of any sophisticated medical and scientific leadership.” An anonymous industry official also said of Simonson, “He doesn’t understand product development cycles [or] product risk. When he’s making decisions, it’s based on information he’s getting from third parties, but he’s not independently able to validate if what he’s doing is right.”
As a recent study shows, careerists are superior to political appointees at getting results. If Simonson doesn't have what it takes to run Bioshield, then maybe he, like all the other "Mike Browns" out there, should gracefully resign before we have a Bio-Katrina.