Trump and his merry band of budget cutters thought the federal government spent too much on public health. Year after year, they have slashed agencies whose mission was to protect the public from pandemics.

The Los Angeles Times has the story:

It’s an obscure U.S. government bureau with many missions, including this vital one: hunting down viral diseases like COVID-19 that spill over from animals to the human world.

But in late 2019 it found itself without a permanent leader, and squarely in the Trump administration’s budget-slashing sights.

That all changed with the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 20,000 Americans and more than 100,000 people across the world.

Now, the Global Health Bureau, part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has abundant government support. Congress and President Trump have agreed to multiply the budget for the bureau’s activities that can support “global health security” and related efforts as much as fivefold, to more than half a billion dollars. And its top leadership position — left empty for three years by the White House and a plodding Senate confirmation process — finally was filled in late March.

The funding boost, along with new leadership, will enhance the agency’s ability to respond to the immediate crisis and bolster foreign health systems to protect against future outbreaks. It also could reboot stalled efforts to have the U.S. help lead a global quest to corral an estimated 1.6 million animal-borne viruses that threaten to leap to human hosts.

“With support from policymakers and the scientific community, we can do this — we have all of the tools and just need to harness the energy and the resources to get it done,” said Jonna Mazet, executive director of the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who headed USAID’s previous initiative to track dangerous viruses.

Outside experts caution that they have seen the U.S. beef up global health programs during past emergencies, like the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic, only to see funding wither when the crises subsided. “The U.S. government funding for this kind of work is completely episodic. There will be another outbreak — that’s a given — and funding that comes in fits and starts doesn’t allow for any real preparations,” said Jennifer Kates, who heads global health policy research at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Right now, we’re just in response mode. The money is really important, but if the outbreak is as devastating as it could be, it won’t go very far.”

The injection of new funds increases the budget USAID devotes to this work to as much as $535 million, dwarfing 2019 funding of roughly $100 million for the programs. (It’s unclear how much of the $535 million will be spent in the coming year.) That advance is even more notable given that the Trump administration’s budget team previously proposed trimming global health security funding at USAID by 10% to a maximum of $90 million, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The new money would be enough to allow the agency to extend the kind of work done by one of its key virus-hunting programs, called PREDICT. That program to allow early warnings about dangerous viruses had been allowed to go fallow, just two months before the deadly new coronavirus burst onto the world stage.

The failure to fully renew PREDICT dismayed infectious disease experts, who said chasing down the pathogens was a key to preventing future pandemics.

A Times story reporting on the demise of PREDICT created a furor and, like much of the responses to the coronavirus pandemic, quickly took on political overtones. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted that the ending of the PREDICT program had been a mistake, adding: “Donald Trump’s shortsighted actions left our nation ill-prepared to deal with this outbreak.”