On August 1, ASPPH wrote to key Congressional appropriators opposing the Administration’s proposal to cut U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps slots. In early June, the Trump Administration had proposed a government reorganization plan. Most of the proposals would need Congressional approval, which is unlikely. However, among the proposals that the Administration could implement directly is one to reduce the Commissioned Corps to a maximum of 4,000 officers, down from more than 6,500. The Administration also proposed creating a “Reserve Corps” to backfill critical positions left vacant by Commissioned Corps deployments and reallocate the salary and pension costs of Corps members to the employing agency.
ASPPH did support the Administration’s call for the creation (and funding) of a Reserve Corps – like those used by other uniformed service programs – that would deploy either in a public health emergency or to backfill critical positions left vacant during active duty Corps deployments.
However, ASPPH also said that the Administration’s “budget reforms” could punish agencies – or at least create disincentives – for utilizing Corps officers. The Association added, “There is a fundamental budget problem with the Corps – it does not have a dedicated funding line in the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services. We urge Congress to correct this by creating a dedicated funding line for the Commissioned Corps and to provide adequate resources to ensure that its mission is adequately funded. In addition to providing for salary, pension, and deployment costs, Congress should also ensure that the Corps has adequate training resources so that its officers are fully prepared to meet the evolving public health threats facing our citizens.”
The mission of the Corps is to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the U.S. and is uniquely American in being the only uniformed service in the world dedicated to public health. Corps officers are a mobile cadre of public health professionals that can be assigned anywhere they are needed and who can deploy immediately in the event of a natural disaster, infectious disease outbreak, or a terrorist incident.