How Awesome is the Deep State, Really?


In a recent video op-ed, the New York Times profiled three government employees who supposedly represent “the Deep State” as being “Really Kind of Awesome:” a planetary mission manager, a water administrator, and labor law enforcer.

The video, its narrator suggested, was a response to Donald Trump’s constant ranting against the Deep State, and his claim that “Either the Deep State destroys America, or we destroy the Deep State.”

This raises the question: Which vision of the Deep State is closer to the reality of what the term actually means, and what role does the Deep State actually play in our lives?

In this article, I will review the meaning of the term “Deep State” and then present three counterexamples to the NYT’s happy band of career bureaucrats. My examples are extracted from the ranks of the security state’s biodefense cadre that ran the Covid pandemic response.

What Does “Deep State” Actually Mean?

To understand the meaning of the term “Deep State,” it is helpful to consult the writings of a civil-servant-turned-author named Michael Lofgren who, according to an NPR report, popularized the term “Deep State” in his 2014 “Anatomy of the Deep State.” 

As Lofgren explains in a video accompanying that essay, the Deep State can be understood as “a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state,” which constitutes a “government within the government” that “operates according to no Constitutional rules or any constraint by the governed.” 

He continues: “the military-industrial complex, Wall Street – they’re both about money, sucking as much money out of the country as they can, and control: corporate control and political control.” He lists the following Deep State constituents: “Pentagon, Homeland Security, State Department, Treasury and Wall Street” with the addition of Silicon Valley, without which, he says, “the NSA and CIA could not do what they do.”

To put it in my own words: The Deep State is a self-serving (as opposed to public-serving) conglomerate of government and corporate interests, operating through “public-private partnerships” in the national security/intelligence space where budgets are untraceable and legal constraints unenforced to nonexistent. 

And I would add: The goal of the Deep State is to pass laws and budgets, create “non-profit” and “non-governmental” structures, and engage in activities (wars, anti-terrorism, and nowadays ”pandemic preparedness” and “anti-disinformation”) that transfer as much money and power as possible from civil society into its own control. 

Does this sound like it applies to the NYT’s Star Trek-loving, salsa-dancing, child-protecting humanitarians? Or does it perfectly describe the following military and national security leaders who usurped control from public health and civil leadership to run the Covid pandemic response according to a biodefense lockdown-until-vaccine playbook that is about as far from actual public health as you can get?

Three Deep State Covid Responders

As you read the following bios, keep in mind these key aspects of the Deep State: 

  • It is a conglomerate of government and corporate interests, so its members are always involved in what are blandly identified in the press and in public documents as “public-private partnerships.” In fact, these are the shady mechanisms by which, as Longfren notes, money, corporate power, and political control are jointly amassed. Deep State operatives always hold positions in both national security arms of the government and related industries, often on a rotating basis.
  • It operates in the national security/intelligence space: The government side of the Deep State comprises the military/national security agencies, not public health or other civilian-oriented departments. 
  • Deep State budgets are untraceable and are spent under cover of loose to non-existent legal constraints, especially during states of emergency, which are designed to suspend legal protections for civil society.

1. Deborah Birx

Meet Deborah Birx, the public face of the National Security Council on the White House Task Force, the governing body of the entire U.S. pandemic response. [ref] With no experience or expertise managing emergent, rapidly evolving respiratory pandemics, she was nevertheless chosen above dozens of eminently qualified epidemiologists and infectious disease experts to represent and enforce the anti-scienceanti-public healthlockdown-until-vaccine biodefense policy.

Commonly known as either Dr. Birx, or Ambassador Birx, Birx worked with her “mentor” Tony Fauci and “trusted colleague” Bob Redfield on HIV/AIDS vaccine research in the 90s, only to complain about their lackadaisical pandemic response and then outrank them in her leadership role as Covid Task Force Coordinator (appointed February 27, 2020) because, as she reported in her pandemic tell-all Silent Invasion, some influential insiders considered her “such a better leader than they are.” [ref]

Birx was flown in to head the Task Force directly from Africa, where she was Ambassador-at-Large and Global AIDS Coordinator for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, an effort implemented by multiple federal departments and agencies, including the State Department, USAID, HHS/CDC, Department of Defense, and Treasury, among others [ref]. USAID is closely affiliated with the CIA and was, in fact, the agency that provided the most funding for EcoHealth Alliance, the organization working on gain-of-function research in Wuhan – research that may or may not have led to the release of SARS-CoV-2 into the human population. [ref]

Contrary to popular belief, Birx’s appointment to the Task Force was made not at the behest of her public health buddies, Bob and Tony, nor any other public health agency leaders. In fact, as publicly stated by Robert O’Brien, Trump’s National Security Advisor, it was the National Security Council (the group in charge of Covid response policy [ref]) that requested Birx’s transfer from the State Department to the White House [ref].

Not only was Birx completely lacking in any public health qualifications to head up the pandemic response, but she also led the charge against actual celebrated experts in epidemiology and public health policy, who could have provided an alternative perspective to the President and the public. [ref] [ref]

Birx has since seamlessly transitioned to cushy jobs in industry and academia, including Chief Medical & Science Advisor at ActivePure, an air filter company [ref], and presidential adviser/adjunct professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock [ref], where her position is partly funded by the Permian Strategic Partnership, a group of oil and energy companies [ref] in the Permian Basin, the largest oil-producing basin in the U.S. [ref]

2. Robert Kadlec

Meet Robert “Bob” Kadlec, a doctor, retired air force colonel, and former CIA officer with over 30 years of service in “positions concerning intelligence, homeland security, counterterrorism and related fields.” [ref

One noteworthy career moment Bob described in a Library of Congress interview was when he went to Iraq “in ’94 looking for buried biological weapons at this terrorist training camp where it’s been implicated that theoretically some of these [9/11] hijackers were trained.” Needless to say, there were no buried biological weapons and the hijackers were only “theoretically” linked to Iraq to justify our invasion of that country. This did not, however, in any way dampen Kadlec’s enthusiasm for drumming up fear about biological warfare and bioterrorism. 

To the contrary, he made an illustrious career out of it. From positions at the National War College and on various biodefense and bioterrorism directorships, through private biodefense consulting companies [ref], and all the way to nothing less than “creator of Operation Warp Speed” (budget: $18 billion [ref]) during the Covid pandemic [ref], Kadlec has made it his life’s mission to put defense against bioterrorism at the top of our national security priorities, preferably with billions of dollars in funding under his own personal control. Even before Warp Speed, as one report notes, in his role as Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) — a position he himself created — controlling the $7-billion Strategic National Stockpile, he “came to have the exclusive dealer license over the single biggest stash of drugs in the history of the world.” [ref]

Covid was the apotheosis of Kadlec and his biodefense colleagues’ “Manhattan Project for the 21st Century:” an opportunity to control and spend many billions of dollars on public-private partnerships to develop “medical countermeasures” against bioweapons, invoking little noticed laws and presidential decrees – which Kadlec himself helped put in place [ref] – that made it possible to completely avoid any regulatory requirements or safety oversight. [ref] [ref] [ref]

In his role in attempting to realize the scientifically and medically impossible goal of creating a “safe and effective” vaccine for billions of civilians in less than a year, Kadlec led a de facto national security coup against the public health departments and civilian government leadership. One enthusiastic military fan described it as: “the military invasion of the Hubert H. Humphrey building…with army personnel marching on the dingy brown carpets of the health department in their combat boots.” [ref]

Kadlec’s latest online bio is dated 2022, where his position is listed as “Majority Deputy Staff Director, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) (Jan15 to present).” There is no year following “Jan15” so we do not know when he started in this position. We also do not know if he continues working in this position now. I asked Paul Thacker, a journalist who recently interviewed Kadlec, what Kadlec’s employment status is these days. Thacker said he does not know, although in the interview Kadlec claims he is “going through thousands of emails” to investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2. [ref] In what capacity? Hard to say.

3. Brandi C. Vann

Meet Dr. Brandi C. Vann, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs (ASD/NBC). During Covid she was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense (DASD/CBD). Although they sound the same, these are two entirely different positions, as you can see from the different associated alphabet salads. [ref]

Brandi is a chemist by education, and a biodefense specialist by trade, who has done stints at the FBI, Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). 

Her entire career at the various Defense agencies has focused on countering threats from weapons of mass destruction. She has no training, experience, or – as far as I can tell – any interest in epidemiology, civilian public health, or pandemic management.

Yet Dr. Vann was quite possibly one of the most important people in the world during the Covid pandemic, sitting atop the byzantine labyrinth of military/defense procurement bodies that utilized pseudo-legal contracts to order and pay for hundreds of millions of doses of mRNA vaccines – requiring no regulatory or safety oversight – for civilian use. [ref][ref]

In that role, Dr. Vann had to keep the following chain of command, and all of its hopelessly convoluted acronyms and interrelationships, in her head – a daunting task, to say the least. This chain is intentionally hard to follow, and I’ve simplified it here as much as possible. It’s important to read through, because it is one of the most astonishing and insidious examples of how civilian legal mechanisms and protections were completely abandoned during Covid:

-As DASD/CBD, Dr. Vann oversaw the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND), a DoD office whose mission is to “provide integrated layered chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense capabilities to the Joint Force”. This office manages the military’s investments in defense equipment and medical countermeasures against weapons of mass destruction (WMD): chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear – referred to as CBRN.

-The JPEO-CBRND sponsors the MCDC (Medical CBRN Defense Consortium) which “was formed in response to the Government’s expressed interest to establish an Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) with an eligible entity or group of entities, to include industry, academic, and not-for-profit partners, for advanced development efforts to support the Department of Defense’s (DoD) medical, pharmaceutical and diagnostic requirements as related to enhancing the mission effectiveness of military personnel.” 

-The MCDC, which is “always looking for innovative, safe and effective medical solutions to counter CBRN threats,” is part of the OTA Consortium, which is “an enterprise partnership between the US Government (MCS – Medical Countermeasure Systems) and the MCDC connected through a ‘contract-like’ OTA (Other Transaction Agreement/Authority).” This OTA operates outside Federal Acquisition Regulations.

-Projects ordered and paid for by the OTA Consortium are administered through a “nonprofit” called Advanced Technology International (ATI) which gets all its funding from the U.S. government [ref]. ATI describes itself as “a new way for the Department of Defense to execute its most pressing research, development, and prototyping initiatives.” The government funding website GovTribe describes it as “a not-for-profit research organization that provides specialized support services to various defense and national security agencies.” 

-The initial $2-billion “other transaction agreement (OTA)” for 100 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid vaccine, and subsequent orders for hundreds of millions of additional doses, was paid for through the $10 billion IDIQ  (Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract) held by ATI which administers the “contract like” agreements for the OTA Consortium, which includes the MCDC, sponsored by the JPEO-CBRND, which is overseen by Dr. Vann.

Thus, Dr. Van oversaw a multi-billion dollar contract for hundreds of millions of doses of a novel technology, to be administered to the entire civilian population, governed by an arcane counterterrorism legal structure intended for narrow and specific use in situations involving CBRN attacks. These contracts enabled the design, manufacture, distribution, and administration of these “medical countermeasures” with no legal oversight or safety requirements at all. [ref] [ref]


The Deep State is not just a bunch of career civil servants. And it is destroying us.

Ironically, Mike Lofgren, popularizer of the term “Deep State,” seems to have such a severe case of Trump Derangement Syndrome (a well-known comorbidity underlying Covid Derangement Syndrome) that he has forgotten or discarded all of his Deep State insights when it comes to the pandemic response. In articles related to the pandemic Lofgren rails exclusively against “right-wing authoritarian personalities,” “angry paranoiacs like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.” and what he calls a Republican “Death Cult” for the desire to reopen the economy.

It’s hard to explain such complete amnesia, or lack of insight, regarding one’s own seminal research. Nevertheless, I am grateful for his analysis and the picture he drew of the components of the Deep State and how they operate.

And now, going back to the NYT’s asteroid fighter, lead pipe remover, and anti-child-labor crusader: how do they fit into Lofgren’s Deep State picture? How do they compare to my truly awesome biodefense pandemic responders — Birx, Kadlec, and Vann? Do these government employees seem like their jobs are all equally encompassed by what Lofgren describes as the Deep State?

Finally, if you agree with me that my cast of Covid characters much more closely represents what we actually mean by that term, what does this tell us about how the Deep State is now encroaching on the lives of the civilian public in the homeland, rather than sticking to its pre-2020 playbook of sucking up resources by destroying and then rebuilding foreign countries?

Republished from the author’s Substack

  • Debbie Lerman, 2023 Brownstone Fellow, has a degree in English from Harvard. She is a retired science writer and a practicing artist in Philadelphia, PA.

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