Biosecurity: "US Disease Agency in Fiscal Peril"

"When US President Barack Obama proposed a US$664-million cut in congressional funding for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in his 2013 budget request, he tried to ease the pain by replacing much of it with money from other sources. But only days after the 13 February request, a vote on Capitol Hill made clear just how vulnerable those substitutions are, suggesting that the US public-health agency is on increasingly shaky financial ground."

"The proposed cut would come from the part of the agency’s budget that is controlled by Congress and pays for the core operations of the CDC, based in Atlanta, Georgia. These include grants to local, county and state public-health departments to monitor infectious diseases or track food-borne outbreaks. Core funding is also used to maintain the Strategic National Stockpile, a repository of drugs reserved for fighting epidemics and bioterrorism. If Obama’s plan is enacted, the CDC’s congressionally controlled funding will have fallen by roughly 20% since 2010 — a decline that 'looks like a disaster waiting to happen', says Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Cuts to the CDC have already contributed to the loss of nearly 50,000 jobs in state and local health departments since 2008. This year, the administration argues that 'efficiencies' will make possible the specific cuts it has proposed in areas such as adult-immunization funding and epidemiological support. But CDC advocates and public-health officials are sceptical. A proposed $47-million cut to the Strategic National Stockpile 'is a lot more than just efficiency. It’s going to cut capability as well,' says Crystal Franco, an associate with the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC in Baltimore, Maryland. 'We are reaching the tipping point where preparedness efforts are going to be reversed because of the lack of funding,' she adds."

Meredith Wadman reports for Nature News February 28, 2012.

Source: Nature, 03/01/2012