Beacon of Hope: Founding Years
Korean War Uncertainties
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Founding Years 1944-1953
Growth Years 1953-1969
Years of Change and Renewal 1969-1993
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The following two years proved difficult, however, for political reasons. The legislative environment for health issues turned adverse in 1949. Southern Democrats, who traditionally spearheaded health care extension, were disaffected by Truman’s advocacy of civil rights in 1948. The anticommunist activities led by Senator Joseph McCarthy targeted the PHS as a subversive agent of “socialized medicine,” and administration zeal for budget reductions produced a freeze in public building starts.30 The Appropriations Subcommittee began looking askance at follow-on buildings in the Bethesda expansion project. The Budget Bureau cut half of Masur’s $2.5 million request for Clinical Center housing in November 1949. Fearing that nonresident nurses would be unwilling to travel to the reservation for night duty, Dr. Dyer protested that the lack of on-site housing for nurses “may well impose an insuperable deterrent to adequate staffing of the Clinical Center operations.”31

On January 4, 1950, work began on the $16,814,200 contract for the superstructure of the hospital, but a combination of strikes and bad weather seriously delayed progress during the spring.32 Dr. Masur’s strong personal leadership style kept the project on track during the rest of 1950. When the mechanical contractor threatened to quit the job in June, Masur reminded the construction chiefs that the project would be “the major hospital center in the country or in the world,” and that “there are 17 million square feet in this job and 17 million details,” none of which would prevent completion.33

Masur’s interest in renewed funding brought him into a PHS consensus in May, which attempted to secure new appropriations by offering to convert the Clinical Center to defense research. This gambit, inspired by atomic war planning within the National Security Council before the outbreak of fighting in Korea, was made more serious by Truman’s July 27 order to cease funding public building projects not vital to national defense.34 Anticipating emergency Defense Department requests for military research, NIH began investigations on biological warfare, shock, radiation defense, and thermal burns in the summer of 1950. Preparations were made to turn the Clinical Center into a “potential defense facility” in the event of an atomic attack on Washington.35 In August, NIH supported separate attempts by Senators Warren G. Magnuson and Claude Pepper to add $64 million and $30 million to PHS’s budget, to eliminate funding arrears and sponsor direct military research, but Congress voted down both measures.36 The intramural project grew only modestly during the Korean War years, classified work was minimized, and administrators assured themselves that, “extensive conversion of the existing program would not, as a matter of fact, have contributed to national defense.”37

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