The Trump administration eliminated a $200 million program to help scientists around the world predict pandemics before they get started, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Is it too much to call this decision criminal negligence? What’s the old poem? “For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost?” To save $200 million, a global pandemic was unleashed that killed many thousands of people and wrecked the world’s economy. Was the program scrapped to save money or because it was started by the Obama administration, which Trump hates?

Two months before the novel coronavirus probably began spreading in Wuhan, China, the Trump administration ended a $200-million pandemic early-warning program aimed at training scientists in China and other countries to detect and respond to such a threat.

The project, launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2009, identified 1,200 different viruses that had the potential to erupt into pandemics, including more than 160 novel coronaviruses. The initiative, called PREDICT, also trained and supported staff in 60 foreign laboratories — including the Wuhan lab that identified 2019-nCoV, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Field work ceased when the funding ran out in September, and organizations that worked on the PREDICT program laid off dozens of scientists and analysts, said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a key player in the program.

On Wednesday, USAID granted an emergency extension to the program, issuing $2.26 million over the next six months to send experts who will help foreign labs squelch the pandemic. But program leaders say the funding will do little to further the initiative’s original mission.