The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) asks Congress to support the biomedical research and health protection programs within the Department of Defense (DOD) when approving the DOD’s FY 2018 budget. These programs contribute daily to our national security by ensuring healthy military forces at home and during deployment and by defending against biothreats. Their activities include those against infectious diseases that can seriously undermine troop readiness. Examples are DOD’s disease surveillance systems and DOD funded development of new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. The DOD programs protect about two million active and reserve U.S. military personnel, which not only directly strengthens military defenses but also protects civilians by halting infectious disease and discovering widely applicable biomedical advances.
In its FY 2018 budget, Congress has an opportunity to reinforce the DOD R&D facilities responsible for the health, safety, and performance of our military, including the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). DOD programs of particular interest to ASM include WRAIR’s Center for Infectious Disease Research with eight target areas: entomology, HIV, malaria, viral diseases, preventive medicine, translational medicine, bacterial diseases, and veterinary services. Another example is USAMRIID’s role as lead laboratory for biological defense research, including outbreak investigations and medical countermeasures like its candidate vaccines against plague, hantavirus, Ebola and botulism.
DOD funded research has made valuable contributions that include vaccines and field ready diagnostics, innovative treatments for wound infections under difficult conditions, and assays to identify unique threats like antibiotic resistant pathogens. With more than 270,000 DOD employees working overseas, protecting American health must include studying illnesses globally. In the past year, DOD has reported its studies on pathogens typically found elsewhere; e.g., Ebola genetics, Zika viruses, leishmaniasis, malaria vaccine testing, inhalational anthrax, chikungunya virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and Bolivian hemorrhagic fever. Collaborations with other U.S. agencies, foreign health departments, and international researchers also help combat illnesses in both military and civilian populations.
DOD efforts in biomedicine, infectious disease prevention and control, case surveillance systems, and medical technology development are critically important to the Nation. We urge Congress to support DOD programs and facilities tasked with protecting the health of the U.S. military and preventing biological threats. Their actions undoubtedly help safeguard U.S. military readiness and national security. We appreciate this opportunity to submit a statement supporting DOD, and we offer our assistance to the Congress during the current budget process.