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CDC cuts could harm biodefense efforts

Proposed budget reductions would hit state and local readiness programs.

Congressional appropriations for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would fall by $664 million under the Obama administration's fiscal 2013 budget request, a reduction that some fear could significantly undermine U.S. medical preparedness and countermeasure programs if backup funding sources fall through, the journal Nature reported on Tuesday.

The proposed reduction would decrease funds provided for state and local readiness programs, as well for the Strategic National Stockpile of countermeasures against biological and other potential WMD agents.

Fiscal 2013 begins on Oct. 1. If the proposed cut moves forward, CDC funding provided by lawmakers would have fallen by about one-fifth in the years following 2010, a reduction that appears to be “a disaster waiting to happen,” said Scott Becker, who heads the Association of Public Health Laboratories in Maryland.

The budget would set aside $47 million less for the Strategic National Stockpile than in fiscal 2012. The decrease would affect “a lot more than just efficiency. It’s going to cut capability as well,” said Crystal Franco, an expert at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biosecurity.

“We are reaching the tipping point where preparedness efforts are going to be reversed because of the lack of funding," Franco said.

The administration's proposal would increase by $296 million the amount of money shifted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from separate government health entities, but it is uncertain whether lawmakers would approve the move. The request would also provide $903 million in CDC funds from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created under a 2010 health insurance law; however, the politically embattled funding pool could itself face attack from lawmakers.

The PPHF money “is vulnerable. It could go away quickly,” former CDC official James Hughes said .