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Bioterrorism Experts Concerned By Trump Budget Cuts

Bioterrorism experts and other scientists have expressed concern about the potential impact of Donald Trump's planned budget cuts.

Trump's budget proposal includes major cuts to public health programs, including $1.2 billion from the Centers for Disease Control, according to Fortune. This amounts to a 17 percent reduction in the CDC's total budget.

Many experts are arguing that while his budget increases military spending by 10 percent, Trump's cuts to public health programs could put the American people at greater risk.

"It's horrific -- worse than I expected," J. Stephen Morrison, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The New York Times. "They're just gutting things, overlaying salt upon key institutions, with devastating human impact."

Morrison added that the budget cuts, if enforced, would "inevitably impact health security."

Morrison's point was emphasized by Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization's Collaborative Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights.

"The next weapon of mass destruction may not be a bomb," he said. "It may be a tiny pathogen that you can't see, smell or taste, and by the time we discover it, it'll be too late."

Some Republican politicians also have doubts about Trump's approach.

"Sometime in the president's term, you will have a pandemic," Representative Tom Cole said in a hearing with Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. "You will have a Zika, you will have an Ebola. Cutting the Centers for Disease Control [budget], I think, leaves you very vulnerable and the American people very vulnerable."

Mulvaney maintained that the government continues to support science.

"The administration wholeheartedly believes in the commitment to research," said Mulvaney. "We'd like to see more focus on what they call basic research, which is research further away from the marketability of products because that is one of the gaps that the government can and should fill."

But Morrison suggested the cuts are part of a broader policy shift.

"They're making a very radical statement," he added. "The big picture is a movement toward suspicion of international programs. The administration is threatening to abandon multilateralism in a big way."

Cuts in these areas would see funding for global health programs at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development drop by 25 percent.

But Hari Sastry, director of the State Department's Office for Foreign Assistance Resources, backed the cuts.

"Our operations must become more efficient, and our assistance must become more effective," Sastry said.

Fortune pointed to other threats to public health, including a global flu pandemic which could claim millions of lives. The article mentioned out-of-date vaccine technology and a lack of capacity to produce vaccinations as being major causes for concern.

Sources: The New York Times, Fortune / Photo credit: The White House/Wikimedia Commons

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