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October 21, 2014

Mission Creep + Bureaucratic Failure = CDC, NIH

These massive agencies actually sound a bit like the viruses their meant to stop.

What do you get when a government entity created to address public health and responses to communicable disease operates outside its mission and purpose? What happens when an agency’s key leaders become more characteristic of an Ivy League professors’ lounge than a highly responsive team of clinical medical professionals equipped with more than theory and unproven policy?

You get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that’s “overseeing” the response to Ebola.

From the CDC’s own website, verbatim:

> “CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.

> "CDC increases the health security of our nation. As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. To accomplish our mission, CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.”

The CDC was birthed in 1946 out of a malaria outbreak in the U.S. and given a $1 million budget. Its personnel were devoted to mosquito control and destruction of the insect’s habitat. In other words, the CDC was created to identify a public health problem, to develop a strategy to isolate, minimize and remove the cause of said problem, and to provide educational and health care research to treat and prevent such problems.

What has happened at this federal agency created to address public health and community safety related to the transmission of illness and disease?

Well, when the word “Prevention” was added to the agency’s moniker in 1992, the CDC’s mission expanded from killing the vector of malaria to managing venereal disease and tuberculosis, and then to disability, injury control and chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. As easily observed, some of these are communicable through public exposure, and others happen due to accidents. But some are not communicable at all – they are instead a result of poor health choices.

Meanwhile, the CDC’s budget increased to $6.9 billion in 2014, an 8.2% increase from 2013, and most certainly a far cry from its early days operating on $1 million. So much for the Democrats’ mantra that GOP budget cuts are to blame for the Ebola panic.

Now, America is faced with a true infectious disease issue that, while not easily contracted through incidental contact, does indeed involve a communicable pathogen that manifests its disease as hemorrhagic fever with a mortality rate of 50% to 70%.

But what exactly has the CDC’s ample taxpayer-funded budget included in recent years?

With its “Prevention and Public Health Fund” housed within Obama’s signature legislation, ObamaCare, the account has received in excess of $3 billion since 2010 to serve as a general fund for things like breastfeeding educational programs and neighborhood improvements such as sidewalk installation and streetlight placement.

And what about its mission to address infectious or communicable diseases? It seems, according to its own financial reporting, just over 6% of that taxpayer funding made its way to the true scope of the CDC mission to address epidemiology and prevention programs.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a CDC partner agency devoted to research and development within the Department of Health and Human Services. NIH Director Francis Collins blames budget woes for the lack of an Ebola vaccine: “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

Would that Ebola vaccine have come before or after the agency blew through more than $39 million in its “priority” to understand why lesbians are obese? Or maybe a vaccine wasn’t quite as important as encouraging senior citizens to participate in choral groups, texting drunks at bars telling them they’ve reached their limit, or figuring out why getting dates is tough for fat girls. Oh, and then there was the spending on shoe insoles to track body weight and the study on origami condoms. We’re not making these up.

Both the CDC and the NIH have important roles in America’s public health and safety. Yet they are both examples of bureaucratic failure in meeting the demands and premise of their very existence. They have not met the challenge of the day due to their mission creep and lost scope of practice.

The Ebola virus infects its hosts’ healthy cells where the replication of the deadly virus occurs in the hijacked normal, helpful cells. The virus grows, replicates and may ultimately kill, only because it overtakes the machinery of one’s body turning it into a dysfunctional mess.

Sounds eerily like the expansion of bureaucracies like the CDC and the NIH.

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