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The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is writing to commend the bipartisan recommendations and provisions of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in HR 5005, which establishes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The ASM supports the approach adopted by the Energy and Commerce Committee for dealing with public health programs and research related to defense against bioterrorism which retains public health authorities for human health related research and public health in the DHHS. The Energy and Commerce Bill addresses issues which the ASM raised in its congressional testimony of June 25. The ASM applauds the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for its leadership and response, which will help to ensure that biodefense research and public health efforts in the United States are successful.
The ASM supports the establishment of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Biodefense research, however, is part of the continuum of the broader subject of biomedical research. It is critical that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a scientific health agency, prioritize, conduct and fund federal research related to civilian, human health-related biological, biomedical, and infectious diseases. HHS is best qualified to establish biomedical research and development programs and to prioritize scientific opportunities and research approaches as approved in the House Energy and Commerce Bill. Transfer of primary responsibility for biodefense research as proposed by the Administration would create unpredictability for research and public health programs, would divert monies from research, and would not be the optimum way to obtain the integrated work of the best scientific minds.
Therefore, ASM strongly endorses the approach of the Energy and Commerce Committee Bill through which DHHS retains primary research and funding authority for accelerated research and development programs, in consultation and coordination with DHS. The Energy and Commerce Bill will ensure that the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention retain responsibilities for research, infectious disease control and essential dual purpose public health activities.
ASM affirms its commitment to working with the Congress and the Administration to achieve the most efficient and effective system in the world for research, control, and response to the threat posed by biological agents. ASM would be pleased to provide any assistance in considering the vital issues arising from the threat of bioterrorism.