August 02, 2023

Wyden, Duckworth Make Push for Increased Support for U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

New legislation would provide dedicated funding to ensure a highly-trained, always-ready, fully-deployable national public health service

Wyden, Duckworth also sent a letter to HHS citing concerns the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed by Congress jeopardizes the Corps’ public health emergency response capabilities, urge HHS to ensure USPHS programs are fully funded

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., today announced their efforts to ensure the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps has the funding it needs to ensure a highly-trained, always-ready, fully-deployable national public health service.

The senators recently introduced the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Operations and Readiness Act, which would authorize dedicated annual funding to the USPHS Commissioned Corps. The USPHS is the only uniformed service without a budget line item dedicated to service operations and maintenance. 

The increasing frequency and severity of public health emergencies makes our nation more vulnerable to potential threats. The USPHS plays a critical role in preserving national public health and national security during domestic or global public health emergencies. USPHS is the only uniformed service in the world solely dedicated to public health. Establishing a budget line item for service operations and readiness is vital to ensure a fully-deployable national public health asset.

“Over the last three years, the significance of public health has been felt like never before. In times of public health emergencies, the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps stands as our nation's frontline protectors, dedicating their lives to safeguarding the health of every American,” said Wyden. “This bill marks a critical stride towards ensuring that this invaluable service is well-prepared to meet the evolving public health needs of our nation.”

“One of the most critical lessons we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic is how important it is for our country to be prepared for the next public health crisis,” Duckworth said. “By supporting our Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, we could help create more opportunities for Americans to serve and protect our country against current and future public health emergencies. That’s why I’m proud to join Senator Wyden in introducing this legislation to do just that and help us strengthen our nation’s national health security.”

Senators Wyden and Duckworth also recently urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure funds are identified to sustain and build the USPHS Commissioned Corps public health emergency response capabilities after the Fiscal Responsibility Act rescinded certain American Rescue Plan Act funds that authorized authorized the USPHS Commissioned Corps Ready Reserve and built capacity for the USPHS Public Health Emergency Response Strike Teams. 

“The USPHS Commissioned Corps is one of eight federal uniformed services, and it is the only service with an exclusive focus on public health. The COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented natural disasters, including wildfires, hurricanes, and droughts, have brought to light the importance of investing in our preparedness and the nation’s health through the USPHS Commissioned Corps,” the senators wrote to HHS Secretary Xavier Beccera. “The USPHS Commissioned Corps Ready Reserve and PHERST meet the current challenges of maintaining the nation’s health security by augmenting the Commissioned Corps’ capability to respond to health emergencies, improve access to health services, and ensure vulnerable and underserved populations receive the health care they need. We hope you will continue to advocate for and support this critical public health workforce asset and your frontline public health responders. It is important that HHS develop a plan for sustaining the USPHS Commissioned Corps with remaining funds and future budget proposals.” 

The letter can be found here.

A summary of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Operations and Readiness Act can be found here.

Bill text can be found here.

What They’re Saying About the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Operations and Readiness Act:

"The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) has stood on the front lines of the fight to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our nation since 1798. In recent years, USPHS has increased their operational capability without an increase in appropriations," said Jacqueline Rychnovsky, Executive Director of The Commissioned Officers Association of the USPHS. "COA thanks Senator Wyden for amplifying the needs of the USPHS and its Commissioned Corps to ensure they are able to continue the fight for our nation's health with the proper resources."

"The Reserve Organization of America thanks Senator Wyden for acting decisively to fund the United States Public Health Service and its Ready Reserve program," said ROA's executive director, retired Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips. "Providing USPHS with the resources to defend and protect the nation's health has never been more important. ROA is proud to support this legislation and will fight to get it into law." 

Duckworth also recently introduced the Parity for Public Health Service Ready Reserve Act, which Wyden cosponsored and would empower the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to recruit, retain and mobilize an elite sustainment force of Public Health Service uniformed servicemembers in response to public health emergencies.


Press Contact: Nicole L'Esperance