Health & Human Services Guidance
2018-2019 Budget Proposal Meeting
In a recent budget preparation meeting, members of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a subset of the Division of Health & Human Services (HHS), were informed that a list of seven words were not to be used in budgets and budget proposals. These seven words were “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” In some cases, alternate phrases were suggested, such as “the CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” while no alternatives were given for many others. Policy analysts in the original meeting reported these new restrictions, but the administration has pushed back saying that nothing has been officially “banned” and the complaints are unfounded. The Secretary of HHS and the Under Secretary of the CDC have made statements saying that their interest is the health of the American people, and they cannot live up to this mandate without the proper vocabulary, let alone proper evidence.
In another measure of increased restrictions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of negotiating a new contract with a media monitoring organization, Definers Public Affairs. Pruitt and the EPA claim that Definers has been hired to do press clips and keep track of media affairs worldwide. However, recent events suggest that EPA employees are being monitored, especially those critical of Secretary Pruitt. In a report recently published by the New York Times, emails containing the names of Mr. Pruitt or Mr. Trump were read and analyzed by a lawyer for America Rising, a Republican Research group affiliated with Definers Public Affairs. These emails were requested and obtained after employees spoke out in meetings, disagreed with decision making or attended public demonstrations. There is a cruel irony in these increased restrictions as the President opens public and protected lands for oil drilling, mining, and even fracking.
If the HHS and CDC have restricted words for their budget proposals, then so do the thousands of researchers, universities, and organizations that apply for and receive funding from HHS and its affiliates. This includes the National Institute of Health (NIH), which supplies funding for a variety of medical research. Banning words like science-based and evidence-based is alarming in a field where evidence and science drive daily decisions. However, words like “Trans” and “Fetus” target areas of research, such as the health and outcomes of trans youth. While there has been little official documentation of these banned words and phrases, already HHS affiliates are preparing to do what it takes to continue their work. Whether their emails come under scrutiny next is still unknown.
Outrage ensued after the report was released by the New York Times, and more evidence was discovered regarding video monitoring and Definers Public Affairs’ early support of Pruitt. The EPA announced that it was canceling its contract with Definers Public Affairs. Both parties said that this company’s efficiency would have saved the EPA money, but it isn’t worth the accusations that have arisen. At this point, a new firm has not been announced and officials say the search continues.
- Read the Full New York Times Report on EPA Employee Email Monitoring
- Learn more about the HHS budget
This brief was compiled by Megan Toney. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.