The research issues faced in examining deployment-related health are complex, and it should be emphasized that a long-term commitment is needed from Congress and from the relevant federal departments in order to nurture and sustain the research efforts that will lead to productive results. Resources for the National Center will be used to fund the core activities, the Governing Board, and Center-initiated research. Funding levels for such efforts are significant.
Since this Center will involve the work of three federal departments and will require close coordination in order to ensure its success, the committee believes that the Governing Board in its annual report to Congress should recommend a proposed funding level for the Center. This proposed budget should detail the resources needed by the Governing Board and staff as they fulfill the work of the Center by carrying out its core activities and funding the Center-initiated research. National Center funding should be a line item in the budget of the MVHCB to ensure the visibility of the Center's work. Therefore, the committee recommends that the National Center should have a clear and distinct budget for its core activities and its Center-initiated research. Further, this budget should be a fine item in the budget of the MVHCB.
Perhaps the greatest potential challenge to be faced by the National Center is sustaining its long-term presence and viability. Deployment health concerns are raised to the level of national issues only sporadically (e.g., illnesses of Gulf War veterans and Agent Orange concerns of Vietnam veterans). Given the inter-departmental responsibility of the MVHCB, the National Center could become lost in the midst of large bureaucracies. It is imperative that commitment to the Center be long-term. The committee has, therefore, developed several safeguards to help secure the Center's sustainability.
First, all relevant constituencies, particularly active, reserve, and guard forces and veterans, would be represented on the Governing Board. Additionally, it is proposed that the Governing Board report directly to Congress, in addition to reporting to the MVHCB. The establishment of a National Center has received a great deal of congressional interest and support to date, and it is hoped that continued congressional involvement will be a driving force in sustaining the Center. Further, the Center, as part of the MVHCB, would have high-level federal involvement, as it would be part of the responsibility of the secretaries of the three federal departments. Funding for the Center would have visibility because it would be a specific line item in the budget.