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Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

Democrats urge against cuts to biological threat preparedness programs

In a public letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), a group of Democratic House members requested that the committee hold a hearing regarding the country’s ability to be prepared for and respond to various biological threats.

The group, which included U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gene Green (D-TX), and Diana DeGette (D-CO), expressed concerns regarding President Trump’s proposed FY2018 budget. Trump’s proposed budget plan calls for an $8 billion reduction to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with closing the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC).

These cuts, the representatives said, could weaken U.S. preparedness for a biological attack or an emerging infectious disease. Daniel Gerstein, a former senior DHS official, recently reiterated the representative’s concerns, stating that closing the NBACC could leave the nation at risk of a bioterror attack.

“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 Congress members wrote. “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.”

Walden has yet to publicly respond to the request.