Thursday, 15 June 2017 09:36

ASM Letter to Congress on the Creation of an Emergency Response Fund

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) supports the creation of a designated Emergency Response Fund within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to more quickly and effectively counter emerging threats like infectious disease outbreaks. We recommended in November that the incoming Administration establish such a fund as a public health priority, referencing lessons learned during last year’s spread of Zika virus infection and problems with funding allocation for this public health threat. We agree with the inclusion of a new “Federal emergency response fund” in the Administration’s proposed FY 2018 HHS budget. However, we are concerned that several issues related to the proposed fund would instead undermine the effectiveness of federal responses to sudden, significant threats to our public health.

The Administration’s budget appears to give the HHS Secretary authority to transfer up to one percent from any existing HHS account into an emergency fund. The ASM urges your subcommittees to ensure that any rapid response fund not weaken other HHS programs, but instead draw upon a separate funding source previously earmarked for immediate mobilization by agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We also ask Congress to clarify the circumstances and mechanisms under which an emergency fund would be activated, as well as the process by which depleted funding would be replaced as needed. In addition, an emergency fund should not eliminate the eventual need for future supplemental legislation in the face of major threats.

As your respective subcommittees deliberate the FY 2018 HHS budget, please consider these important factors likely to affect the success of the proposed fund. The fund as currently described urgently needs congressional clarification in regard to resources, activation and management. A permanent federal fund dedicated to preparing for and responding to emerging infectious disease events like Zika or Ebola infection and other microbial threats and disturbances should be created. The proposed fund should contain at least $2 billion of new funding, which can be increased, and should be located at the Department of Health and Human Services, and be available as needed for coordinated efforts across federal agencies such as CDC, NIH, FDA, BARDA and USDA.

We appreciate this opportunity to comment on the emergency fund included in the Administration’s FY 2018 HHS budget and offer any assistance the ASM might provide during the appropriations process. The ASM would be pleased to meet with your staff regarding the establishment of the Emergency Response Fund.


Susan Sharp, Ph.D., President, American Society for Microbiology
Stefano Bertuzzi, Ph.D., M.P.H., CEO, American Society for Microbiology
Ronald M. Atlas, Ph.D., Chair, ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board