These have been dark days and months at Fort Detrick, home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and the engine of prosperity for Frederick County and the entire region.

Since the Centers for Disease Control suspended work at the institute last summer, the facility seems to have lurched from one crisis to another. Limited work finally resumed at the labs in November, but earlier this month, we learned that the Department of Defense was withholding more than $100 million from programs at USAMRIID and Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Last week, the department said that the funding will be withheld until three conditions are met, including USAMRIID regaining full operational status, which has not happened since the CDC shutdown.

Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are alarmed by the holdup, and have hinted that something nefarious may be happening with the money.

In a letter to constituents on the issue, Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) asserted that “the DOD has attempted to make drastic programmatic changes to the laboratories without consulting Congress.”

Trone, who visited USAMRIID this past Wednesday, pledged to fight any attempt by the Defense Department to “strip down” the Fort Detrick and Aberdeen labs.

This all comes at a terrible time in the life of the nation and indeed the world. The new coronavirus, which originated in China, has infected and killed thousands of people in the last month.

This is exactly the kind of disease threat that the Detrick lab was created to address, study and hopefully thwart.

It is clear that some employees of the institute had fallen into some bad habits, based on the report from the CDC. Leadership on post has said their goal is to bring the lab back into compliance with rules and regulations, and get it fully operational again.

However, Lt. Col. Michael Andrews, a Defense spokesman, gave a statement to The News-Post saying: “To date ... some of the research projects impacted by the CDC shutdown have not yet been completed.”

The department wants to see all of that work finished before moving forward.

The leadership at USAMRIID says it has complied with the requirements of the Defense Department and now needs the allocated money to be released.

“Without the allocated funding, [U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command] cannot sustain current capabilities …” a 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.”

Fort Detrick is important to our local economy, and USAMRIID is of paramount importance to the safety of our nation and the fate of the world.

Today it is the coronavirus, which is striking fear in the hearts of people everywhere. We do not know where the next challenge will come from, but we do know that it is coming. Our friends and neighbors in the nation’s service at the fort or working for the many contractors supporting its efforts are on the front lines of the struggle to keep us safe from biological attack.

The Army institutes need to be fully funded and free to resume work on their vital mission. We expect our congressional delegation to continue pressing for the money, and to bring this episode to a satisfactory conclusion.

(10) comments

joelp77440

In a letter to constituents on the issue, Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) asserted that “the DOD has attempted to make drastic programmatic changes to the laboratories without consulting Congress.”

DoD is under the executive branch. They don't need to ask Congress.

threecents

They don't need to, but they should, particularly with the Coronavirus situation. USAMRIID is uniquely set up to work on agents like that for development of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. Trump, in his great scientific wisdom, has greatly reduced CDCs funding and capabilities. Meanwhile, there is a very real threat that the virus will eventually hit the US in a big way, which could cause havoc.

The Grape of Wrath

"...engine of prosperity for Frederick County..."? That's strange. I thought the engine of prosperity for FrCo was its vast collection of doughnut shops, gas stations, fast glop joints, beer and greaseburger joints, pizza joints, restaurants serving up fat, carbs and cholesterol, its downtown chic purveyors of trinkets, unheard of wines, and fancy but shabby clothing, all soon to be augmented with go-cart tracks and electronic pin ball hangouts. After all, that's all you read about in the FNP when it comes to economic news. Well, Maryland is a blue state and the Orange King Kong of a president has demonstrated again and again it is out to punish all those deemed disloyal, congressional delegation desires notwithstanding. Besides, Ft. Dietrich is a federal facility and the conservative old codgers of Frederick County dislike federal spending entirely (except for themselves), so I expect they are not whining about the loss of funding at all.

gabrielshorn2013

Maybe you moving the biotech sector in Frederick County, such Life Technologies, Rooster Biotech, Lonza, Kemp Proteins, Southern Research, Charles River, and more moving into the area, such as Kite Pharma. The biotech sector is continuing to expand in FredCo, with good paying jobs. Frederick County continues to be a bedroom community for those working in MoCo and DC, hence the service industries like restaurants and shopping. If the population demand services, someone will provide them. If there wasn't demand, those establishments would be empty. They're not.

beyoungjr

That "Principal" bottles everything and everyone into neatly organized hit lists. Principal says all of the rural residents are "Takers". Now goes on to ignore valuable business interests in our county.

Such a narrow view of our society and community.

Lord help our youth!

gabrielshorn2013

Missing, not "moving".

threecents

Looks like the army spent 100s of millions on a new building that they cannot move into yet, instead of fixing what was wrong with the old building. Predictably, problems resulted, and now they are letting the whole organization flounder.

Dwasserba

"The leadership at USAMRIID says it has complied with the requirements of the Defense Department and now needs the allocated money to be released." We just watched the episode of "explained" on Netflix that was about pandemics. It was breathtakingly prophetic. SARS did not kill as many people as coronavirus already has. "Wet markets" must be shut down!

gabrielshorn2013

Wet markets are a cultural thing in China and other countries Deb. They have to change their culture from the inside. Good luck trying to get them to change.

threecents

Thanks DW, I will have to watch that, but I am not convinced there is any real solution to prevent future emerging infectious diseases. From what I read the Coronavirus actually came from bats. Perhaps it then mutated to be able to infect livestock, and then mutated again to infect people? Ebola apparently also infects bats and may have originated there. HIV, on the other hand, apparently only infects people, but it evolved from a virus which infected chimps, and that virus evolved from a virus that infects monkeys. A chimp used for food in Africa appears to have facilitated the jump to humans. Because humans are the only HIV host, once we get a good vaccine against it, it might be possible to eradicate it. Sorry for straying off topic.

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