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Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

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Obama Budget Curbs Disaster Planning Aid to States

The newly released U.S. budget plan for fiscal 2012 would trim programs that provide federal support for disaster preparations in states and territories, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported on Monday (see GSN, Feb. 10).

The Obama administration intends to lower financial support to the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program to $643 million, Trust for America's Health Deputy Director Richard Hamburg said. That figure is $71.6 million less than the fiscal 2010 funding level, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention summary of the budget proposal to Congress.

A final budget for the current fiscal year remains unfinished, leaving most federal operations funded at 2010 levels. The new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Federal funding to the Hospital Preparedness Program would see a $46 million drop in the next spending plan, to $380 million, according to Hamburg.

The Centers for Disease and Control has requested $11.26 billion -- 1.2 percent less than the federal public health agency was expected to receive in the present budget year.

The CDC budget also proposes a $59.3 million funding boost for the Strategic National Stockpile, which stores countermeasures for potential biological warfare agents and other threats. Funding would enable substituting new drugs for materials that are passing their expiration date and pay stockpiling and administrative costs.

The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, has requested a significant budget increase -- one-third more funding than provided in fiscal 2010 -- to bring it to $4.3 billion for the coming fiscal year. The budget proposal contains a $70 million boost for the licensing assessment of new medications to counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons as well as emerging infectious agents.

The Trust for America's Health slammed the proposed reductions in disaster preparedness aid.

"Significant cuts are being proposed to core disease prevention programs and significant cuts to programs that protect Americans from major disease outbreaks and bioterrorism events," organization Executive Director Jeff Levi said. "We can't afford a budget that gives with one hand what it takes away with another" (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy release, Feb. 14).

The Obama budget would provide $150 million to begin construction of a high-level biosecurity laboratory in Kansas, the Kansas City Star reported on Monday (see GSN, Dec. 20, 2010).

The $650 million facility in Manhattan is projected to open in 2018. The site would study highly contagious animal-borne pathogens such as foot and mouth disease and African swine fever.

"We think it's extraordinarily good news," Kansas Bioscience Authority President Tom Thornton said. "The most imminent threat to our nation is a biological attack. ...This lab in many respects, is essential."

The planned National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility would take up work now performed at a laboratory on Plum Island, N.Y.

A 2010 National Research Council report calculated there was nearly a 70 percent likelihood that a pathogen would accidentally be let loose from the Kansas laboratory during its 50-year operational lifespan, potentially causing significant economic harm (David Goldstein, Kansas City Star, Feb. 14).