February 18, 2021

One Year after Threatened Furloughs, Cardin, Van Hollen Spotlight Key Role Fort Detrick Researchers Have in Fighting COVID-19

BALTIMORE – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (Both D-Md.) lauded progress at Fort Detrick’s U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) and U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) nearly one year after the Department of Defense threatened to withhold funds and furlough as many as 300 workers. Today, researchers at USAMRDC and USAMRIID are on the front lines of a rejuvenated effort to confront COVID-19 and successfully put an end to our public health crisis.

Senators Cardin and Van Hollen held a virtual meeting this week with Brigadier General Michael Talley, Commanding General, US Army Medical Research and Development Command; Dr. Sarah Donahue, Deputy Chief of Staff, US Army Medical Research and Development Command; COL Darrin Cox, Commander, US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases; and others with oversight for the Fort Detrick research operations.

“Thank you to the scientists and engineers at Fort Detrick who are working full throttle on research, development, testing and evaluation of vaccines against COVID-19. Maryland is proud that so many of the best minds in medical research are working here in our state,” said Senator Cardin. “We knew a year ago that the same lab that had developed vaccines for anthrax, Ebola and botulism needed to be part of the race to beat COVID-19. Senator Van Hollen and I will continue to do all we can to ensure Fort Detrick has the resources it needs to protect Americans from current and future biological and chemical threats.”

“We are grateful for the men and women at Fort Detrick working on the front lines to protect the health and safety of Marylanders. This top-notch team of medical researchers, engineers and support staff are critical to beating this pandemic as they work around the clock to accelerate and develop the safest and most effective vaccines and therapeutics to support our nation’s response to COVID-19,” said Senator Van Hollen. “The work being done at Fort Detrick is vital to our state and our country. We are grateful for their service during this public health crisis. Senator Cardin and I will continue to fight for the funding necessary to make sure the base can continue its work defending our country.”

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.

In February 2020, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD/A&S) notified the senators that it was 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. In a letter to then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, searching for an explanation, the senators wrote: “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.” The full letter can be found here.

The federal budget for Fiscal Year 2021 included $130 million for the expansion of the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick in Frederick, recognizing its leading role in our biological defense research.

 

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