Tuesday, January 16, 2018 – The Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, in its recently approved FY 2018 bill and report, included continued funding and language supporting expanded respiratory research on warfighters currently being conducted at National Jewish Health, Denver Colorado, a client of The National Group lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.

The continued funding for warfighter respiratory research is contained within the Defense Health Program’s Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), which was funded at $300 million for FY 2018. 

In FY 2016, National Jewish was awarded $11.1 million for two three-year research projects on warfighter respiratory illnesses and development of countermeasures – these research efforts are currently underway.  The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, Fort Detrick, MD, which administers grants under the PRMRP, will be announcing another round of research projects, including respiratory research, later this year after FY 2018 DOD funding is approved.

In past years, the Senate Committee expressed its concern about warfighter respiratory problems, both short and long term, and their deleterious effects on military readiness, and called upon the DOD Health Program to allocate significant resources to respiratory research.  This action by Congress resulted in the awarding of respiratory research grants to National Jewish, which is regarded as the leading respiratory research center in the nation.

In its FY 2018 report, however, the Senate Committee went a step further, calling for the further development by DOD of a “comprehensive, broad-based warfighter respiratory research program to support overall readiness” of the Armed Forces.  The Committee also directed DOD to “report to the Congressional Defense Committees not more than 120 days after enactment detailing the scope and impact of respiratory illness on military personnel – particularly on deployed troops – dating from the first Gulf War to the present.”

The National Group, on behalf of National Jewish Health, worked closely with the Colorado Congressional Delegation, the members and staff of the Senate Defense Appropriations
Subcommittee, and officials at the DOD Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program to explain the initial findings of the ongoing National Jewish warfighter respiratory research, which point strongly to the need for a more comprehensive and broad-based research program, and to urge the inclusion of report language calling for such a program and study of past respiratory ailments.

Congress is expected to approve the FY 2018 Defense Appropriations bill as part of an FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill which now being negotiated.  The warfighter respiratory funding and report language are expected to be approved in the final legislation.

The pending language in the Senate Defense Appropriations bill is below:

Warfighter Respiratory Health.—The Committee remains concerned about respiratory ailments among deployed and returning servicemembers and their deleterious effects on combat and personnel readiness. It is estimated that respiratory diseases affect more than 100,000 servicemembers each year and result in almost 27,000 lost workdays per year.
The Committee has included respiratory health as part of the Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program and believes that further development of a comprehensive, broad-based warfighter respiratory research program is necessary to support overall readiness, and directs the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) to provide a report to the congressional defense committees not more than 120 days after the enactment of this Act detailing the scope and impact of respiratory illness on military personnel – particularly on deployed troops – dating from the first Gulf War to the present.

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