President Joe Biden is going to war with the coronavirus.
The new administration announced in “National Security Directive 1” on Thursday that it would “treat epidemic and pandemic preparedness, health security, and global health as top national security priorities.” The White House would also “work with other nations to combat COVID-19 and seek to create a world that is safe and secure from biological threats.”
The directive — titled “National Security Directive on United States Global Leadership to Strengthen the International COVID-19 Response and to Advance Global Health Security and Biological Preparedness” — was issued following other executive actions, signed by the president, ordering federal officials to begin fortifying their pandemic response efforts.
The orders create a COVID-19 response coordinator position and align pandemic response efforts with national security council.
Other presidential directives — which include executive orders, proclamations and memorandums — that were issued by the new president since his swearing in Wednesday focused on the climate crisis, immigration and addressed policy biases. Many also reverse former President Donald Trump’s directives from the last four years.
According to the Library of Congress, executives orders generally provide direction to government officials and agencies and have the weight of federal law behind them when a president cites which power they’re evoking. Memorandums don’t require the same legal citation. The Library of Congress said modern proclamations have been “ceremonial in nature” but used to do more “heavy lifting.”
Here are directives Biden has issues since taking office:
- The “Executive Order on Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats” creates the White House’s COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board of interagency representatives to provide oversight to America’s coronavirus testing effort.
The board will coordinate pandemic diagnostic, screening and surveillance testing, provide recommendations to the president and identify barriers in testing access.
- The “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety” orders the secretary of labor to develop and issue new guidance within the next two weeks on how employers should provide safe working environments during the pandemic. It also says that updated emergency workplace standards, including if masks are needed, should be issued by March 15.
- The “Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers” directs the secretary of education and the secretary of health and human services to provide “evidence-based” recommendations on how educational institutions at all levels and can safely open, and remain open, for in-person learning.
- The “Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery” creates a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, within Health and Human Services, “to address the disproportionate and severe impact of coronavirus ... on communities of color and other underserved populations.”
- The “Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain” directs federal agencies to secure coronavirus response supplies so that those supplies are available for federal, state, local, tribal and territorial pandemic responses. It calls for a complete inventory of pandemic-related supplies, the fulfillment inventory gaps, consideration of the Defense Production Act and addresses pricing of supplies.
- The “Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats” orders department and agency leaders to “facilitate the gathering, sharing, and publication of COVID-19-related data” with the intention of creating a stronger national public health infrastructure. This includes looking to strengthen staffing and technological demands of a massive public health disaster like the current pandemic.
- The “Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19” directs government agencies to develop plans to streamline pandemic management, speed up the creation of new coronavirus treatments and “improve all Americans’ access to quality and affordable healthcare.”
Biden tells health officials to “consider steps to ensure that clinical trials include populations that have been historically underrepresented in such trials.”
- The “Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel” outlines pandemic-induced travel precautions deemed necessary by the new president. The order requires masks be worn on domestic travel — including commercial flights, trains, ferries and intercity bus services.
Among other restrictions, international travelers to the United States — when feasible —must provide proof of a recent negative coronavirus test and are recommended to participate in a period in self-quarantine after entering the country.
- The “Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security” creates a COVID-19 response coordinator position — along with a deputy position — that will spearhead the White House’s pandemic efforts and report directly to the president.
The order also aligns coronavirus response efforts with the National Security Council.
- The “Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing” requires federal employees and contractors to wear a mask while working and all individuals to wear a mask while on federal property. The order also encourages universal mask use and adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pandemic guidelines.
- The “Executive Order on Ethic Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel” provides an ethics pledge that every executive agency appointee must follow while serving on behalf of the president. It contractually bans the appointee from taking gifts from lobbyists, outlines “revolving door” and “golden parachute” rules preventing appointees from acting in their own self interest and other employment qualifications.
“I recognize that this pledge is part of a broader ethics in government plan designed to restore and maintain public trust in government, and I commit myself to conduct consistent with that plan,” states the pledge that appointees must sign.
- The “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” provides protections for Americans who are not otherwise clearly addressed in existing federal civil liberties legislation and directs agency administrators to identify gaps in protection.
“Discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation manifests differently for different individuals, and it often overlaps with other forms of prohibited discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of race or disability,” Biden wrote in the order. He said his administration will continue to enforce existing laws that “address overlapping forms of discrimination.”
- The “Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” takes the steps to begin rolling back past policies that Biden said have failed to “promote and protect our public health and the environment” and “conserve our national treasures and monuments.”
More specifically, the order provides a timeline for agency heads to report potential improvements, establishes an interagency “Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases” working group and reviews, pauses or revokes Trump administration actions like the Keystone XL Pipeline permit.
- The “Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census” reverses a 2020 Trump memorandum excluding undocumented immigrants from America’s constitutional decennial census.
- The “Executive Order on Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation” reverses Trump-era regulatory directives. Biden’s order is meant to allow government agencies “the flexibility to use robust regulatory action to address national priorities,” like coronavirus response, racial justice and climate change.
- The “Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities” outlines the Biden administration’s immigration policies, revokes immigration directives of the former administration and tells agency heads to begin assessing their policies to ensure they align with the White House’s vision.
- The “Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” establishes a White House and federal government policy to “advance equality for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.”
Biden says that “equal opportunity is the bedrock of American democracy” and by “closing racial gaps in wages, housing credit, lending opportunities, and access to higher education” would yield to trillions of dollars in additional gross domestic product in the next half decade.
- “Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States” is to the secretaries of defense and homeland security. It allows governors to activate their National Guards to aid in pandemic response and for the cost of that activation to be 100% reimbursable through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- “Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)” is to the attorney general and the secretary of homeland security. Biden wrote Wednesday that the Obama-era program should be safeguarded and will remain White House policy. DACA provides the opportunity for immigrants that were brought to the United States as children — often referred to as “Dreamers” — to remain in the country as legal residents.
During his tenure in the White House, Trump had signed an executive order to end DACA, but the Supreme Court ruled last summer that the policy could remain in place.
- “Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians” is to the secretary of state and the secretary of homeland security, postponing the removal of and protecting the employment rights of Liberian nationals living in the United States until June 30, 2022.
According to the memo, Liberians fled their country because of conflict and upheaval and were originally granted protected status in the United States in the early 1990s.
- “Modernizing Regulatory Review” tells the director of the Office of Management and Budget to work with other departments and agency leaders to create “a set of recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review.”
“These recommendations should provide concrete suggestions on how the regulatory review process can promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations,” Biden wrote.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain also issued a memorandum to agency and department heads “freezing” regulatory action until it could be reviewed by the new administration.
- Stop building the southern border wall
Moments after taking his oath as president of the United States, Biden signed a proclamation stopping the construction of the southern border wall.
“Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats,” Biden wrote. “But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution.”
- End the “Muslim Ban”
Another proclamation Biden signed revoked the former president’s directives banning individuals from Muslim and African countries from entering the United States. “We will not turn our backs on our values with discriminatory bans on entry into the United States,” the president wrote.
- A National Day of Unity
Biden proclaimed Jan. 20, 2021 — his presidential Inauguration Day — a “National Day of Unity,” citing record numbers of Americans voting in the past election and that “democracy prevailed.”
“I pray this moment gives us the strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away,” Biden wrote.
Letters to United Nations
- Remain part of the World Health Organization
In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the president said the U.S. intends to remain in the WHO, retracting Trump’s letter of withdraw last year.
“The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security,” Biden told Guterres.
- Join the Paris Climate Agreement
Biden also told the UN that he accepts the Paris Agreement and “every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America.”
Trump had withdrawn from the 2015 international climate agreement during his first year in office, Voice Of America reported.