Does the White House really need yet another task force?

Americans need a better and more competent federal response to the crisis. There's no reason to think a fourth task force will make that happen.
Image: President Trump Departs The White House En Route To Capitol For State Of The Union Address
The White House on January 30, 2018.Zach Gibson / Getty Images file

It's been a couple of months since the White House launched its first task force related to the coronavirus, and its work is not without controversy. NBC News reported over the weekend on the group "favoring some of the nation's largest corporations," while operating "almost entirely in the dark" with "virtually no accountability."

That official White House panel's work is accompanied by a "shadow" coronavirus task force led by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's young son-in-law, which is reportedly generating "confusion among many officials involved in the response" to the pandemic.

There's also, of course, a "doctors' group" at the White House, which the Washington Post described as "a previously unreported offshoot of the original task force," which "huddles daily to discuss medical and public health issues."

And in case this weren't quite enough, the president has announced that he's also creating an "opening-our-country" task force, poised to begin its work this week. Politico reported:

President Donald Trump said he's planning a Tuesday announcement to name the members of a new White House task force focused on reopening parts of the country that have been shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic. "We're also setting up a council, a very, very great -- doctors and businesspeople, we're going to be announcing it on Tuesday, of some great people," Trump told reporters at a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Friday.

Though there was some reporting last week about Trump creating a panel focused specifically on the economy, he added in comments to reporters on Friday, "This is beyond economic. This is really, I call it the 'opening our country task force' or 'opening our country council' so we don't get it confused with [Vice President Mike Pence's] task force, which has done so great. And we're going to have the great business leaders, great doctors, we're going to have a great group of people."

By some accounts, Ivanka Trump is likely to be included as a member of this new panel, though the formal announcement isn't expected until tomorrow.

If members of this latest task force are going to tell the president that "opening our country" without extensive testing and everything associated with it is folly, then perhaps it will serve a valuable purpose. Then again, Trump shouldn't necessarily need a panel to tell him what he should already know. Either way, we probably shouldn't get our hopes up: he's unlikely to choose panelists who might tell him what he doesn't want to hear.

All of which leads to an awkward question: are all of these White House task forces necessary? Especially when there's still no underlying plan that the task forces' members have been directed to implement?

To be sure, the idea of organizing a group of qualified people to tackle important tasks during a crisis has appeal, but when there are multiple groups acting simultaneously to address similar priorities, the result, as a Washington Post report put it yesterday, is "a bureaucratic nesting doll of groups with frequently competing aims and agendas."

Americans need a better and more competent federal response to the crisis. There's no reason to think a fourth task force will make that happen.