USAMRIID

The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick.

Funding will continue to be withheld from a military laboratory at Fort Detrick and one at Aberdeen Proving Ground until the laboratories meet conditions set by the Department of Defense.

The three conditions — one of which is that the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases regains full operational status — were part of a memorandum sent by the deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment approximately a month after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention halted research in USAMRIID’s biosafety level 3 and 4 laboratories. The News-Post obtained the memorandum Monday.

In the memorandum sent on Sept. 24, 2019, Alan Shaffer, the deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, wrote that the Chemical and Biological Defense Program allocated a “ceiling of $104,346K, but we will withhold distribution of these funds until the following criteria are met to my satisfaction.”

The criteria are:

  • The laboratories come back online and are operational.
  • USAMRDC needs to put business plans, internal controls and processes in place, which will ensure proper fiscal controls, auditability and “sustainability of the capabilities and associated workforce.”
  • USAMRDC needs to create a plan for the “traceability of funded research efforts and associated milestones” so that the Chemical and Biological Defense Program does not pay for the same work twice.

USAMRIID resumed partial operations in November. But it was the second time in two years that the laboratory shut down, which meant researchers could not complete the work they were doing for the Chemical and Biological Defense Program, said Lt. Col. Michael Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman, in a statement.

“To date ... some of the research projects impacted by the CDC shutdown have not yet been completed and the associated funds have not been recouped by the [Chemical and Biological Defense Program],” Andrews said in the statement.

The first shutdown of USAMRIID came in May 2018 after heavy rain and flooding that damaged the steam sterilization plant at Fort Detrick. The second came in July 2019, after the CDC found several lapses in biosafety during inspections.

USAMRICD was never shut down, a USAMRDC spokeswoman said in an email.

The Army started investigations at USAMRIID and USAMRDC in July, Andrews said. The Inspector General learned of potential financial mismanagement at the Army medical research laboratories around the same time.

“These events prompted the Department [of Defense] to begin working closely with the Army to identify institutional corrections to address these concerns and increase accountability of dollars spent at the laboratories,” Andrews said in the statement.

USAMRDC leadership feels that it addressed all three criteria from the September memo, a spokeswoman said in a statement.

USAMRDC addressed the first condition because USAMRIID was approved to work on specific projects as it progresses toward full operational capacity, the spokeswoman said.

For the second condition, USAMRDC created and put in place a plan of action and milestones for oversight of its financials and business.

“This plan includes processes, policies and leadership reviews that will ensure clearer fiscal control and auditability,” the spokeswoman said in the email.

USARMDC also developed internal controls that involve leadership oversight and review measures, which will show traceability and accountability of funded research efforts, a requirement of the third condition, she said.

“Without the allocated funding, USAMRDC cannot sustain current capabilities at either the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) or the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID),” the spokeswoman said in the email. “The long-term degradation or loss of capability from two of the premier DOD research laboratories directly impacts the DOD and Nation’s ability to timely respond to chemical, infectious disease and other medical based threats to national security.”

The Department of Defense will update members of the Maryland delegation, who wrote a letter last week to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, about USAMRDC’s progress for meeting the three criteria, Andrews said.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) spoke with Department of Defense officials on Monday about releasing the roughly $104 million in funding, they said in a statement.

The two senators were told that additional funding would be released this week for lab operations and that the DoD officials did not want to affect the workforce while the Army provided the sought-after financial and safety information.

“We share the goal of greater transparency and knowledge; however, this should not jeopardize the mission and essential surge capacity needed for such marquee biological and chemical defense labs,” the senators said in the statement.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at hmongilio@newspost.com.

(23) comments

logo234

The leadership responsible for mismanagement are all gone with no consequence. The contract scientists are the ones being fired from the jobs for lack of funds.

kendavis1960

There are only 6 projects they can work on, yet they’ve maintained a full staff. They have been paid taxpayer’s money for (in some cases) the exact same task now THREE times, and STILL have not been able to conduct the work. Their accounting practices are haphazard. Their Certification to handle biological hazard pathogens was REVOKED, and has not been restored. Even if they get the $104Mn, it is HIGHLY unlikely that they will be able to do any significant work this FY. Taxpayers are being asked to keep the lights on (and de-fund other vital work) even though they can’t do any work (and the Corona virus is Public Health, NOT the DoD’s lane (so if they tell you they need the funding to do that, they’re LYING.

threecents

Nope, while USAMRIID does not normally work on public health issues, they certainly can if the army decides it is in their interest. Also, there is speculation that the Coronavirus actually is a biowarfare agent. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jan/26/coronavirus-link-china-biowarfare-program-possible/

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jan/26/coronavirus-link-china-biowarfare-program-possible/

dabienus

$104,000 is almost nothing in terms of research funding. It won't even cover one research project much less solve any long term funding issues that USAMRIID has.

threecents

Add three zeros.

LAR1

The article said $104,364K = $104,364,000. That is a decent research budget.

Fiver

The amount was written in an unusual format. It says $104,000K, which is really $104 million.

threecents

These have been the nation's hub of biodefence has been for decades, and it looks as though the army has been letting it fall apart. They should be working on protecting the world from the Corona Virus right now. They have the best facilities and scientists for doing that.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] three! Some of the best vaccinologists around!

gabrielshorn2013

Did we read the same article seven, or do you have inside knowledge about this issue? DoD Brass were very specific about what their requirements were, and there is nothing that implies what you wrote.

shiftless88

I understand, but it would be good to know how the DoD brass reacts to situations in other states. Was this a particularly egregious set of issues? This the problem with having a POTUS who is known to seek revenge on his perceived enemies (defined as "anyone who does not adore him") and lie about it. It undermines the usual trust in these processes. It politicizes everything.

gabrielshorn2013

Shiftless, this all goes back to the cease and desist order from CDC a while ago that shut the facility down, and the article clearly refers to that situation, i.e no money until you are fully up and running. It's an unfortunate, but predictable situation.

kendavis1960

There was an IG investigation. The results were NOT good. People were Fred over the money mismanagement.

Greg F

The issues that shut them down have been out there for a very long, long time. This is not a surprise.

threecents

Collins, Which issues are you referring to?

Greg F

They were well aware of all the reasons they were shut down years ago...so that they are shut down is no surprise.

gabrielshorn2013

Collins, that does not answer three's question. You implied that you knew what the issues were, so....?

threecents

Collins, The main issue was their steam sterilizer going down. That was a secondary method of sterilizing liquid waste that went down their drains. They replaced that months ago, and it passed inspection.

sevenstones1000

Funds withheld until Maryland votes red. This is what a Trump dictatorship looks like.

Joeseamhead

Exactly, 7’s. Or until the US Senate grows a pair and insists that funds that have been appropriated for specific military projects stop being diverted for the construction of the wall that is being slapped together.

Greg F

They got their $77Million for a Space Force installation at Detrick...what else does that nutter want?

kendavis1960

This is not that. There was mismanagement of HUGE amounts of money, research funding organizations were being charged for an FTE of work, but the worker was actually doing work for another organization...etc. etc. etc.

threecents

Hopefully they can discipline whoever was responsible for the creative accounting, rather than withholding funding for the entire organization?

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