Launch of CSIS Report on DoD Overseas Research Laboratories
July 6, 2011
By Youngji Jo
On June 28th, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center released the final report of its project on the Defense Department’s overseas medical research laboratories, which are important U.S. assets at the intersection of health and security.
Despite their long and accomplished history, the Department of Defense (DOD) overseas medical research laboratories have been largely unknown and undervalued outside the research community. With this in mind, CSIS conducted a careful, yearlong independent analysis of the laboratories’ value, the challenges they face, and a vision for their future. The CSIS team based its report on meetings with D.C. experts as well as visits to DOD medical laboratories in Kenya, Egypt, Thailand, Cambodia, and Peru.
The report launch consisted of four parts: an introduction by Dr. John Hamre, President & CEO of CSIS; a summary of the report from Lieutenant General James Peake, U.S. Army (retired), with responses from the laboratory leadership; a panel discussion featuring partners of the laboratories; and a keynote address from Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.
The panel discussion comprised Dr. Kevin M. De Cock of CDC, Dr. H. Clifford Lane of NIH, Dr. Regina Rabinovich of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Daniel Gordon of Sanofi Pasteur, and Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, former U.S. ambassador to Kenya.
Above: A Highlight Video from the event.
Speakers highlighted the DOD laboratories’ contributions to medical research for both the United States and their partner countries, including scientific breakthroughs on infectious diseases such as malaria. The data they collect is beneficial for medical research not only for the host nation but also for health globally. Another great asset, panelists said, is the laboratories’ set of dynamic partnerships, spanning the DOD, other government agencies, industry, academia, other research institutions, and local schools and clinics throughout the region.
Ultimately, argued the panelists, the DOD laboratories are a win-win for United States national interests and global health. They strengthen U.S. military readiness while simultaneously building medical and research capacity in their host countries.
At the same time, panelists observed that the DOD overseas medical research laboratories face inherent vulnerabilities and challenges due to unawareness of their work among top policymakers, a shortage in sustainable and predictable core funding, and the difficulties of adapting Army and Navy personnel guidelines to a medical research mission.
Assistant Secretary Woodson told the laboratories to make their case more strongly and better advertise the good work they do. He said that the laboratories play an important role in building healthy populations globally, a strategic approach to promoting economic and political stability worldwide.