The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) today joined more than 60 leading global health security organizations and experts to advocate for robust funding of programs that counter biological threats in the Trump Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request to Congress. The request, in, Secretary of Health and Human Services and Chair of the newly established U.S. , comes amid the continued spread of Ebola virus disease in an insecure region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This and other outbreaks serve as a reminder that infectious disease threats, whether naturally-occurring, accidental, or deliberate, pose a threat to U.S. and international health and security, as diseases do not respect borders or avoid areas of conflict.
Beth Cameron, NTI’s Vice President for Global Biological Policy and Programs, serves as a co-chair of the Global Health Council’s (GHC) roundtable on global health security, which spearheaded the letter. Consistent with NTI’s mission to counter global catastrophic biological risks and advance international biosecurity, NTI joins GHC and other groups in advocating for needed resources to fill global preparedness gaps. The letter sent to Secretary Azar advocates for a FY 2020 funding request that reflects the strong U.S. commitment to advance the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), a partnership of more than 64 countries and organizations, which was launched in 2014 and recently extended through 2024. As a result of the GHSA, more than 70 countries have now been evaluated for pandemic preparedness but only 14% of assessed countries are prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks.
NTI and its partners are recommending the FY 2020 request bolster U.S. leadership and programs focused on building the capacities required to stop outbreaks at the source. These include global health security efforts implemented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as biosecurity and biosurveillance programs implemented by the U.S. Department of Defense and State including Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs, which focus on preventing and detecting deliberate attacks and accidental biological releases. Taken together, these programs serve as the foundation on which other countries can build—using new resources to enhance and sustain capability.
The letter also advocates that the FY 2020 budget request reflect the importance the Administration has placed on global health security as a national security imperative within the. It is time for the resources to match the rhetoric—global health security programs across departments and agencies should seek full funding in their FY 2020 budget requests to accomplish the global mission of keeping us safe and secure from infectious disease threats.