Tuesday, 13 February 2018 16:46

Protecting Americans within Our Borders Requires Strong Domestic and Global Investment

February 13, 2018 - The American Society for Microbiology issued the following statement in response to the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget released yesterday.

The Administration’s proposal to drastically cut funding for global health security, medical, energy and agricultural research, and critical research infrastructure would debilitate our efforts to protect Americans within our borders. Without congressional action last week to approve additional spending on non-defense programs, the Administration’s funding recommendations substantially reduce federal research and development support -23% to agriculture, -15% to energy, -46% to the environment, - 27% to health and -31% to basic science. In addition, funding for Department of State global health programs would be reduced 27% and funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be cut 19% in FY19.

“This proposed budget would threaten our ability to find cures for disease, develop new scientific technologies that can protect from biological threats, and improve public health. It would be a terrible setback in advancing scientific research,” says Peggy Cotter, Ph.D., President of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). “This year’s devastating influenza epidemic is a stark reminder of the critical need to fund biomedical research to support public health.”

In this era of mass global travel, the United States must make a strong commitment to health security both at home and abroad to secure its borders against public health threats. “The Ebola and Zika pandemics did not originate within our borders, but traveled here quickly. There is no question that there will be another threat. The only questions are when and where in the world it will originate. Protecting Americans requires stopping these public health threats at their points of origin, which requires a strong, effective, and strategically placed U.S. global presence ” said Ron Atlas, Ph.D., Chair of ASM’s Public and Scientific Affairs Board. “This entails continued and effective investments in both the domestic and global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats. And we need to make sure that we are safe from both natural and intentional bio threats.”

While we appreciate that the Administration is recommending using a portion of the congressionally approved additional funds to replenish some of the proposed cuts for FY2019—such as for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health—the net effect of the proposal remains negative. The proposed cuts would decrease American competitiveness and hurt the economy. The U.S. is the leader in biotechnology and related industrial development because of its investments in science. With these cuts, the edge will rapidly move to other countries.

“We are already losing ground to other countries with respect to leadership in science and urgently need to modernize our basic science capacity as part of any infrastructure initiative,” says Dr. Cotter. “If we are truly going to pursue policies that put ‘America First,’ it is unfathomable that we would willingly undermine our existing position as a global leader in scientific research and also put Americans at risk.”

ASM’s mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences. Through our conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities, we provide a network for scientists in academic, industry and clinical settings and promote a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.