(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmen David Trone, Dutch Ruppersberger, Jamie Raskin, and Anthony Brown (all D-Md.) wrote to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to express concern regarding withheld funding for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick and the United States 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 Van Hollen and Cardin 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 United States 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 USAMRICD 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.