By MICHAEL T. OSTERHOLM and MARK OLSHAKER
While the Trump administration is proposing significantly increased military spending to enhance our national security, it seems to have lost sight of the greatest national security threat of all: our fight against infectious disease.
We already spend far more on our military than any other country in the world. To help pay for the increases, President Trump wants to cut back many federal programs, including those that prepare us to wage war against microbes, the greatest and most lethal enemy we are ever likely to face. This is where “defense spending” needs to increase, significantly.
President Trump’s budget would cut funding for the National Institutes of Health by 18 percent. It would cut the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, a key vehicle for preventing and responding to outbreaks before they reach our shores, by 28 percent. And the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would kill the billion-dollar Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fight outbreaks of infectious disease. (While the budget also calls for the creation of an emergency fund to respond to outbreaks, there is no indication that it would offset the other cuts, or where the money would come from.)
Those cuts will not protect American citizens. They will diminish research and vaccine development and our ability to respond to the growing threats of antibiotic resistance and new infectious diseases.