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Pallone & Engel To Trump: Staff Up Centers For Disease Control, Combat Diseases At Home & Abroad

Jul 26, 2017
Press Release
Members Underscore Risks Posed by Understaffing the CDC

Washington, D.C. – Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs today called on President Trump to immediately staff up the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a letter to the President, the ranking members warned that his neglect of the agency creates a grave risk to global health and national security. 

“Every day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to protect America from health and safety threats.  On any given day, those efforts may include interventions to combat the nationwide opioid epidemic, to respond to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak, or to prevent and reduce the burdens of heart disease and diabetes,” the Members wrote.

The Members continued: “We worry that these vacancies have left CDC unable to fulfill its mission of developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and education activities.  Additionally, these vacancies, including those within the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, raise serious questions about whether CDC has the personnel available to detect and immediately respond to sudden health emergencies – whether domestic or foreign.  Evidence and history tell us that such threats will not be foiled by isolationist policies.”

While the Trump Administration has formally lifted the federal hiring freeze, press reports indicate that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has kept the hiring freeze in place leaving nearly 700 unfilled positions at CDC.  The members raise concerns in their letter that these vacancies leave CDC unable to fulfill its core mission and endanger public health. 

The text of the letter to President Trump follows:

The President

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Every day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to protect America from health and safety threats.  On any given day, those efforts may include interventions to combat the nationwide opioid epidemic, to respond to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak, or to prevent and reduce the burdens of heart disease and diabetes.  Additionally, because infectious diseases know no borders, CDC must maintain the capability to detect and respond to outbreaks worldwide.  In the past two years alone, CDC has deployed staff more than 750 times to respond to health threats, from the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa to the multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to flour.

Unfortunately, CDC’s work and the 24/7 protection it provides are currently at risk. We are concerned that the actions of your Administration have left CDC without adequate staffing needed to protect the public. You announced a federal hiring freeze on January 23, 2017, which the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) lifted on April 12. However, according to press reports, Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas E. Price still maintains this freeze, resulting in nearly 700 unfilled positions at CDC.  This means that, each day, CDC must protect and defend Americans against health threats without a significant segment of its workforce.

We worry that these vacancies have left CDC unable to fulfill its mission of developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and education activities.  Additionally, these vacancies, including those within the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, raise serious questions about whether CDC has the personnel available to detect and immediately respond to sudden health emergencies – whether domestic or foreign.  Evidence and history tell us that such threats will not be foiled by isolationist policies.  Without the ability to consistently monitor threats and rapidly coordinate responses on a global scale, the health and lives of Americans will be at risk.

Exacerbating our concern is your endorsement of cuts to CDC’s budget. Your proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 would reduce CDC funding by 17 percent.  Coupled with the proposed elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides approximately 12 percent of CDC’s budget, CDC’s resources would be woefully inadequate to maintain the agency’s current efforts to promote public health.  These include lifesaving immunizations, HIV prevention programs, and responses to our nation’s ongoing opioid crisis.

Failure to ensure that CDC remains fully staffed and funded places Americans’ health and our national security at risk.  We urge you to take immediate action to reverse course and guarantee that CDC has the personnel and resources needed to protect the health of all Americans.  

Sincerely,

Frank Pallone, Jr.

Ranking Member

House Energy and Commerce Committee

Eliot L. Engel

Ranking Member

House Foreign Affairs Committee

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