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Van Hollen Leads Letter Opposing Potential Cuts to Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

November 21, 2019

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper to raise serious objections to any proposed cuts to the budget of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU). Based in Bethesda, Md., USU is a part of the military academy system and is the only medical and nursing school in the country that is dedicated to military and combat medicine.

Educating military medical professionals at USU is more cost effective than providing scholarships for the same programs outside the military – saving the military millions of dollars. That’s because USU graduates, who make up 25% of medical corps officers, serve on active duty longer, deploy longer, are more represented in special operations units, attain a higher percentage of specialty board certifications, attend more operationally-relevant training courses, and have longer careers and more promotions than their peers from other accession sources.

“As our Armed Forces are being deployed into combat zones, USU graduates provide combat casualty care for our troops around the globe…. Our nation is fortunate that the University fulfills its mission of educating future generations of military and public health physicians, nurses and biomedical scientists. USU is a compelling example of the importance of public investment in our nation’s future. It is imperative that the Administration and Congress continue to provide the critical assistance needed to USU so that it can continue to carry out these objectives,” the Members write.

However, a new Defense-wide review proposes slashing funding for USU and could ultimately lead to it being shut down all together. And the fact that it is being done outside the Appropriations process is even more alarming.

The Members add, “The Department’s budget review process directly affects our ability to fulfill our constitutional obligations of authorizing and appropriating for the activities of the Department. We urge you to reject these ill-conceived cuts to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and ensure that the Department is more transparent with its budgeting decisions in the future.”

The full text of the letter is available below and here.

Dear Secretary Esper:

We write to express our profound objection to proposed cuts to the budget of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) presented to you as part of the Defense-Wide Review.

USU is the nation’s federal school of medicine and graduate school of nursing. The university educates health care professionals dedicated to career service in the Department of Defense and the U.S. Public Health Service. USU is the single largest accession source to military medicine: 25% of medical corps officers are USU graduates.

As our Armed Forces are being deployed into combat zones, USU graduates provide combat casualty care and for our troops around the globe. They provide care aboard ships and airplanes equipped as state-of-the-art hospitals, and in emergency rooms and public health facilities throughout our nation. These outstanding women and men are educated at USU in medicine, graduate nursing and biomedical research.

In addition to its world-class educational programs, the University is dedicated to innovative research in military medicine and nursing as well as public health. Its research programs, devoted to preventive medicine, infectious disease, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, are relevant both locally and globally.

USU graduates serve on active duty longer, deploy longer, are more represented in special operations units, attain a higher percentage of specialty board certifications, attend more operationally-relevant training courses, and have longer careers and more promotions than their peers from other accession sources. The cost to the military for a USU graduate per year of practice is comparable to graduates from Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) schools. Accession cost per day deployed and total career cost per day deployed for USU graduates is half of the cost for HPSP graduates.

Our nation is fortunate that the University fulfills its mission of educating future generations of military and public health physicians, nurses and biomedical scientists. USU is a compelling example of the importance of public investment in our nation’s future. It is imperative that the Administration and Congress continue to provide the critical assistance needed to USU so that it can continue to carry out these objectives.

Given the USU’s track record of excellence, we were alarmed to learn that the Department is considering cuts as high as 30% to the University’s budget for research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) and 34% to University operations and maintenance (O&M). The options recommended to the Secretary also reportedly include the cancellation of a $445 million military construction project and closure of the USU Medical School, which would likely precipitate closure of the University. There is also a proposal to close down the USU entirely.

These cuts, even if only partially implemented or scaled back, will adversely impact the enterprise across recruitment, retention, access to research funding, and severely impact medical readiness at a time when demand is increasing.

We are also concerned by the manner in which these cuts have been planned and proposed. As you are likely aware, the Senate Appropriations Committee in its FY 2020 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill report cautioned the Department that “[c]ontinued, wide-ranging truncation or elimination of programs without notification to the congressional defense committees in advance of the subsequent budget submission leads to inefficiencies and misappropriation of resources in the current budget request being considered.”

Senior level budget reviews from the Office of the Secretary of Defense place Congress in a position of appropriating resources to programs that will be truncated or eliminated in the following year’s budget request. For this reason, the Committee specifically directed the Department to provide documentation highlighting all truncations and eliminations resulting from senior level “Night Courts.”

The Department’s budget review process directly affects our ability to fulfill our constitutional obligations of authorizing and appropriating for the activities of the Department. We urge you to reject these ill-conceived cuts to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and ensure that the Department is more transparent with its budgeting decisions in the future.

Sincerely,

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All Information was gathered from publicly available US Government releases. "§105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise. ( Pub. L. 94–553, title I, §101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2546 .)" http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:17%20section:105%20edition:prelim)