Why Does Congress Shower The CDC With Money Despite A Track Record Of Waste and Mission Failure

It’s no secret that taxpayer money is wasted by funding projects and programs that are absolutely ridiculous.

Wasteful spending at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control was recently exposed after Francis Collins, the head of NIH, blamed a lack of funding for the absence of an Ebola vaccine.

Collins boldly stated, “Frankly, if we had not gone through our ten-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.”

Despite Collins’ whining the truth is budgets for NIH and the CDC have grown significantly over the past ten years. The real problem with the CDC is not the budget total but how the money is spent.

The question for taxpayers and Congress should be is the agency spending taxpayer money wisely and is it meeting its disease prevention goals.

Waste at CDC is unfortunately nothing new. In 2007, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) issued a report, “CDC Off Center,” that highlighted wasteful spending at the agency and its failure to meet its disease controlling mission.

The report documented how the CDC spent a significant amount of money on facilities while it failed to successfully combat diseases. The CDC built a lavish $106 million visiting center that includes a world class communications center and Japanese gardens and it constructed a $109.8 million headquarters building with $10 million worth of office furniture. On its Atlanta campus, the CDC has a $200,000 fitness center that includes “mood enhancing lights,” saunas, and zero-gravity chairs.

While the CDC was busy supporting construction projects, it was failing to meet its goals for combating infectious diseases. Regarding HIV/AIDS, the CDC received an incomplete grade from the Office of Management and Budget because the agency did not establish adequate performance goals or metrics to determine if its HIV/AIDS prevention program was working.

OMB reported:

the domestic HIV/AIDS program made progress on reducing new infections from 120,000 in the late 1980’s to 40,000 in the mid-1990’s, but this level has not changed for several years. The program has taken steps to improve the efficiency of Federal operations, but does not have incentives and procedures to make gains more broadly or ways of measuring annual improvements.

Since then the rates of new HIV/AIDS infections have not decreased. The CDC’s website reports, “In 2010 (the most recent year that data are available), there were an estimated 47,500 new HIV infections.”

The CDC’s effort to eliminate syphilis failed. Despite announcing a goal to reduce syphilis cases to 1,000 or lower and with Congress almost doubling the agency’s syphilis budget, the rates of the sexually transmitted disease increased by 68% in 2004. Since then the news on syphilis has gotten much worse. The CDC reported from 2005 – 2013, “the number of primary and secondary syphilis cases reported each year in the United States nearly doubled, from 8,724 to 16,663.”

It’s obvious the CDC has a record of wasteful spending and difficulty in meeting its mission so the agency’s failure to successfully implement policies to deal with Ebola is not a surprise.

What’s more disappointing than the CDC’s performance is despite Coburn’s 2007 report and the agency’s track record of wasteful spending and mission failure, Congress continued to shower the CDC with taxpayer money.