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Maryland, Virginia Lawmakers Urge Congressional Leaders to Leave Door Open to ARPA-H in the National Capital Region

Government and Politics

December 5, 2022


“In order to live up to its promise to advance breakthrough scientific research, ARPA-H, like its model DARPA, must be able to find a location with the best physical and human infrastructure to support its mission.”

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined lawmakers from across Maryland and Virginia in urging congressional leaders to allow maximum flexibility when the administration selects a location for the newly created Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). The letter led by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is signed in addition to Senator Van Hollen by Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.), as well as Representatives Steny Hoyer (Md.-5), Bobby Scott (Va.-3), Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.-2), John Sarbanes (Md.-3), Gerald Connolly (Va.-11), Kweisi Mfume (Md.-7), Donald Beyer (Va.-8), Anthony Brown (Md.-4), Jamie Raskin (Md.-8), Abigail Spanberger (Va.-7), David Trone (Md.-6) and Jennifer Wexton (Va.-10), the bicameral group of lawmakers “respectfully request the omission of language in any bill or committee report that restricts the location of the agency.” This comes in response to suggestions that Congress place statutory restrictions on ARPA-H being within the National Capital Region.

The full letter can be found below.

Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader McCarthy,

Thank you for your ongoing work to support the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). As work on an end of year package advances, we write to respectfully request the omission of language in any bill or committee report that restricts the location of the agency.

We commend your efforts to ensure ARPA-H can achieve its goal of advancing biomedical and health research in innovative ways. However, some ARPA-H proposals have suggested authorizing the agency while placing a statutory restriction on its location, such as a prohibition on ARPA-H being located within the National Capital Region (which includes Washington, D.C., Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park, and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Montgomery, and Prince George’s). This restriction would be both arbitrary and unnecessary, and it would hinder the agency from using a truly objective process to determine the best location.

ARPA-H was proposed as a biomedical version of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). A legislative restriction on DARPA’s location was not necessary for the agency to accomplish its groundbreaking work. As you know, DARPA is, in fact, located in close proximity to the Pentagon, which allows for close collaboration but independence from the Department of Defense.

In order to live up to its promise to advance breakthrough scientific research, ARPA-H, like its model DARPA, must be able to find a location with the best physical and human infrastructure to support its mission. Should legislation with regional location restrictions advance, not only would ARPA-H be harmed, but other federal agencies could be subjected to similar provisions in the future and risk losing access to crucial resources.

We are excited about the opportunities ARPA-H will have to advance health research and look forward to working with you to ensure the agency has the resources essential to success.

Sincerely,