Skip to main content

The Pandemic Forum: COVID-19’s Impact on Geopolitical Risk and Global Resiliency

The Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) presents The Pandemic Forum, a virtual event on September 10th from 2-4pm EDT.

Date & Time

Sep. 10, 2020
2:00pm – 4:00pm ET


The global spread of COVID-19 exposed the vulnerability of industry and government to systemic shocks; consequently, risk management teams must build protections into their operations that anticipate and dampen the effect of future incidents. In this forum, we will learn from healthcare professionals, former national security leaders, and risk management executives about the wide reaching impacts of health on geopolitical risks and considerations for public and private resiliency.

How have risk management procedures adapted as a result of the pandemic?  In terms of public and private resiliency, what lessons have we learned so far and what challenges might COVID-19 offer in the future?  What systemic weaknesses were exposed and are leaders better equipped to address these shocks moving forward?  How can leaders from the public and private sectors collaborate in future scenarios and what policy solutions are necessary to make that happen?

Selected Quotes

Joyce Johnson

“From a health perspective in general, probably the most important thing is to recognize that interagency doesn’t only mean federal. I think there’s a real tendency when we say interagency to think of the federal agencies... To me, the interagency piece may start federal, and then the states are really important because the states are really who control most of the funds and sets the policies. But it’s really at the local level… when it comes to actually having to do something, who actually has to do the surveillance for these cases? Who has to probably do most of the contact tracing? It’s really necessary to recognize that the people that are on the ground doing the daily work are not the ones that usually have the most resources.”.”

“I was at the Centers for Disease Control at the very, very beginning for AIDS and was doing full-time AIDS work. And I compare that to this. And I know that people find a lot of faults and problems and challenges and weaknesses in how the world has responded to COVID. But if you compare it to AIDS, with AIDS it took several years before everyone even agreed that it was a viral disease. I would go around giving talks about hepatitis B vaccines and physicians would tell me that they thought aids was a CIA plot. They thought it was a toxin, people thought it was a terrorist event. [It’s] been what, 40 years? And we don’t have a vaccine. [For COVID] we have three vaccine candidates and at least three Phase 3 trials just in the US. And that’s all happened in ten months.”

“[It’s important] to realize that there’s often different right answers to a problem. And that people can only make a decision based on a point in time and the information they have and particularly with something live COVID, that is moving so fast, what you do today may not be the same decision you’d make tomorrow.”

Evan Wolff

“This is a very interesting time, not even looking forward but from an industry perspective, we’re six months in. A lot of the issues that Joyce [Johnson] talked about in terms of things we would never even imagine [have] become commonplace now and companies have been able to internalize all the externalities that COVID-19 has brought us.”

“Many of us come from government, where after we do exercises or scenarios or went through a crisis, the most important thing we do is look back and think about what have we learned from this. And I think six months in is an apt time to ask that question.”

“The supply chain, as we’ve all learned in our experience, it’s always about the last mile or the weakest link and the piece of the supply chain that I think no one fully anticipated (maybe with the exception of people that bought stock options and zoom and the like, that we would have such a distributed workforce) the one part of the world that forever changed is that we’re all taking this call, or most of us are taking this call from our home or working at home these days. The people part of the supply chain is a really important piece.”

“We have more information than we have time, which is the other sort of critical thing in life that we’re all learning about now.”

William Green

“I would argue that this pandemic has demonstrated to us very clearly that national security is far broader than some of the narrow confines by which I used to examine it at least. Healthcare, employment -- there are just a myriad of issues that impact our security here today that I think we are all feeling on a day to day basis. Understanding how those factors evolve, how we analyze those changing events, and respond to them with policies and ensuring that the government processes function effectively (the interagency processes in particular) is really central to our government providing advice back to the private sector, and the private sector working effectively with the government to insure our global security or our national security”

“The issue here of strategic forecasting is broader than just the narrow confines here of the one issue around the pandemic of today. It’s all of the things that haven’t occurred yet,  that we don’t know about, and that you have to start thinking about… there are elements, pockets of the government across the board that are looking at all of these potential things that may occur down the road. The question is: how do you begin, through what structure do all of these issues [exist], where do they reside when you’ve done that analysis, where is the collection spot.”

“... my point is national security is a fabric that touches upon a lot more than some of the things that we have historically looked at and it's the mental health of the society -- the ability to get people back into jobs, the job market collapses but so does the economy, and we’ve seen a little bit of that this spring. So these are all issues that are impacting us in making our situation from a national security perspective more delicate than it's been in quite a while.”

Bruce McIndoe

“I would say the biggest issue we ran into as it was to clear within the US was the lack of testing for approximately forty critical days, and not having testing and getting testing online, the CDC “probe issue” with their test (but then also getting approved tests online), not having samples to validate, all kinds of problems…. Not having tests was probably the major public health issue that enabled us not to aggressively manage this infectious disease as it came in.”

“In this event, we had both supply and demand shocks to the supply chain which is highly unusual to have both of those essentially fail at the same time. When the demand did come back, it came back in a very different way than when it went away. Food was a good example, where restaurants and the packaging of food and the distribution of food restaurants essentially went to ground zero and we ended up wanting food through grocery stores and we had to rewire all of that. You would think about the cold chain distribution, which is like refrigerated and frozen goods and things like that, and how their packaging to a consumer versus a restaurant is completely different so those are the major kinds of disruptions.”

More quotes to follow....


Setting the Scene

  • Tim Weir, Vice President, Global Asset Protection, DXC Technology and Wilson Center Global Fellow
  • Dr. Joyce Johnson, Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret) and professor at Georgetown University

Panel 1 – Perspective from Industry

  • Evan Wolff, Partner and Co-chair of the Privacy & Cybersecurity Group at Crowell and Moring and Wilson Center Global Fellow
  • Michael J. Manyak, MD, FACS, Global Urology Medical Director, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Anatoliy Chudnovskiy, Vice President EPAM Systems 
  • Peter Wexler, Senior VP & Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, Schneider Electric
  • Angela Jago, Senior Leader, Global Intelligence and Protection, Dow, Inc.

Panel 2 – National Security Implications

  • William Green, Founder and Managing Partner, TD International
  • Bruce McIndoe, Founder and Board Member, WorldAware
  • Angela Jago, Senior Leader, Global Intelligence and Protection, Dow, Inc.
  • Dr. Joyce Johnson, Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret) and professor at Georgetown University
  • Tim Buch, Former McKinsey Partner and Former Sr. US Intelligence Official

Panel 3 – What’s Next?

  • Tim Weir, Vice President of Global Asset Protection, DXC Technology
  • Dr. Michael Manyak, MD FACS, Global Urology Medical Director, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Dr. Joyce Johnson, Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret) and professor at Georgetown University
  • Bruce McIndoe, Founder and Board Member, WorldAware
  • William Green, Founder and Managing Partner, TD International

Hosted By

Science and Technology Innovation Program

The Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) serves as the bridge between technologists, policymakers, industry, and global stakeholders.  Read more

Thank you for your interest in this event. Please send any feedback or questions to our Events staff.