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E&C Democrats: Trump Budget Undermines Biodefense

Jun 12, 2017
Press Release
Committee Leaders Request Hearing on Biological Threat Preparedness

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ),  Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent a letter to Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today requesting that the Committee hold a hearing on the United States’ ability to be prepared for and respond effectively to biological threats.

In their letter to Chairman Walden, the Democrats expressed concern that the Trump administration’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget cuts, including $8 billion dollars in cuts to the National Institutes of Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention in addition to the closure of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), could weaken U.S. preparedness for a biological attack or emerging infectious disease.  A former senior DHS official recently wrote that closing the NBACC could leave the nation at risk of a bioterror attack.

The three Democratic Committee leaders wrote that the Committee has a longstanding interest in examining this issue, including multiple hearings in 2016 that addressed the findings and policy recommendations of biodefense preparedness commissions, as well as security issues at national bioresearch labs. 

“Given the Committee’s record examining these issues, we have serious concerns regarding our present capabilities and how the President’s proposed FY 2018 budget will impact medical research, biosurveillance, and emergency preparedness,” the three Committee Democratic leaders wrote to Chairman Walden. “The Committee must be vigilant in continuing to examine national preparedness to address biological threats and vulnerabilities, as well as emerging infectious diseases.  We urge you to schedule a hearing on this important public health matter as soon as possible.”

Full text of the letter can be found below:

June 12, 2017

The Honorable Greg Walden

Chairman

Committee on Energy and Commerce

2125 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Walden:

We are writing to urge you to hold a hearing on current U.S. preparedness and ability to manage biological threats.  The Energy and Commerce Committee has a longstanding interest in examining this issue, including multiple hearings in 2016 that addressed the findings and policy recommendations of biodefense preparedness commissions, as well as security issues at national bioresearch labs.   Given the Committee’s record examining these issues, we have serious concerns regarding our present capabilities and how the President’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget will impact medical research, biosurveillance, and emergency preparedness.  

Currently, the federal government’s biodefense initiatives span across an assortment of agencies, each of which varies in terms of its resources, scope, and approach.  In light of the Trump Administration’s proposed FY 2018 budget, we are concerned that budget cuts across multiple agencies could weaken U.S. preparedness for a biological attack or emerging infectious disease.  For example, the Trump budget proposes a more than $7 billion reduction to the National Institutes of Health, a more than $1 billion reduction from the Centers Disease Center,  and the closure of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center  – a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) laboratory that supports intelligence assessments, preparedness planning, response, emerging threat characterization and bioforensic analysis.   According to a former senior DHS official, this facility would provide “essential information that would inform decision makers and save lives” in the event of bioterror attack and its closure would leave the nation without these vital capabilities. 

We have not yet received a response to our June 1, 2017 letter requesting a hearing on the impact of President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget on agencies within the Committee’s jurisdiction, including the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Committee must be vigilant in continuing to examine national preparedness to address biological threats and vulnerabilities, as well as emerging infectious diseases.  We urge you to schedule a hearing on this important public health matter as soon as possible.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

 

Frank Pallone, Jr.

Ranking Member

 

Gene Green

Ranking Member Subcommittee on Health

 

Diana DeGette

Ranking Member Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

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