February 05, 2020

Maryland Delegation Members Seek Answers on Funding for Maryland Army Installations

WASHINGTONToday, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen as well as Congressmen David Trone, Dutch Ruppersberger, Jamie Raskin, and Anthony Brown (all D-Md.) raised concerns in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper regarding funding for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) at Aberdeen Proving Ground. On Thursday of last week, the members were informed that the two programs are facing a withholding of funds by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. Senators Cardin and Van Hollen immediately arranged a meeting on Friday with General John Murray, Commanding General, Army Futures Command, and Brigadier General Michael Talley, Commanding General, USAMRIID and Fort Detrick, to discuss the issue. At that meeting, both General Murray and General Talley shared their commitment to assuring adequate resources to preserve USAMRIID’s important mission. Other members of the Maryland delegation met or spoke with Army leadership separately. The members are working to ensure that the labs are properly funded and staffed, and in doing so, sent a letter to Secretary Esper.

The members write, “As our nation prepares to confront the coronavirus global health emergency, we write to express our concern regarding the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)) withholding $104 million in payments to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) at Aberdeen Proving Ground.”

They continue, “Given the critical contributions of USAMRIID and USAMRICD to our national security, including their role in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, we were alarmed to learn that the OUSD(A&S) has withheld payment for laboratory research since September 2019.”

They close the letter, stating, “We urge you to work with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment to promptly release the funds necessary for the continued operation of USAMRIID and tUSAMRICD and ensure that the Department is more transparent with its budgeting decisions in the future. Additionally, we ask that the Army and the OSD provide our offices with an update no later than February 28, 2020 on the progress made toward resolving any outstanding issues and releasing any remaining withheld funds.”

The text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Secretary Esper:

As our nation prepares to confront the coronavirus global health emergency, we write to express our concern regarding the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)) withholding $104 million in payments to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

As you know, USAMRIID is the Department’s lead laboratory for medical biological defense research. Their research helps to protect the American warfighter from biological threats and investigate disease outbreaks and threats to public health. Research conducted at USAMRIID leads to therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics, and information that benefit military personnel and civilians. USAMRICD is the nation's leading science and technology laboratory in the area of chemical countermeasures research and development.

Given the critical contributions of USAMRIID and USAMRICD to our national security, including their role in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, we were alarmed to learn that the OUSD(A&S) has withheld payment for laboratory research since September 2019.

Furthermore, we express concern that OUSD(A&S) is considering reducing the operational capacity at USAMRIID and USAMRICD. As you know, missions that require both a highly-skilled workforce and the ability to surge in times of crisis, like chemical and biological research, cannot simply be slashed when no emergency is present. The men and women who are the heart of these laboratories have numerous opportunities available to them. This capacity, once reduced, cannot be rebuilt overnight.

Lastly, in a November 2019 letter, Members of Congress expressed their concern to you regarding the Defense Department’s continuing efforts to make drastic programmatic changes without consulting Congress. As we have previously made clear, senior level budget reviews from the Office of the Secretary of Defense must be coordinated with Congress to ensure we are adhering to our Constitutional obligations.

We urge you to work with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment to promptly release the funds necessary for the continued operation of USAMRIID and tUSAMRICD and ensure that the Department is more transparent with its budgeting decisions in the future. Additionally, we ask that the Army and the OSD provide our offices with an update no later than February 28, 2020 on the progress made toward resolving any outstanding issues and releasing any remaining withheld funds.

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