House Budget Would Deal Another Severe Blow to NIH in FY14 and Beyond

House of Representatives Budget Chairman, Paul Ryan (R-WI), released a 10-year spending plan on Tuesday. The plan claims to balance the federal budget within the next 10 years, through deep cuts of roughly $4.6 trillion, which is more than the entire federal budget for FY 2012. The plan imposes extreme cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, which include line-items such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Head Start, education, and air traffic control. These cuts will take place by imposing a 414-billion-dollar cap on non-defense discretionary spending for FY 2014, which starts on October 1st. To put this into perspective, this cap means that about $167 billion will be cut from these programs in FY 2014, accounting for the sequester cuts that took effect on March 1st. While the sequester cuts have dealt a devastating 5.1% cut to NIH funding for the remainder of this year, the House plan could mean more than a 10% cut to the NIH budget in FY 2014. The graph on the right shows the deep cuts to NIH for FY 2013 after the sequester, and the cuts that will take place for FY 2014 if Rep. Ryan’s budget is adopted.

NIDCR FY12 Funding Plan Released

From the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research…

FY 2012 Funding Plan

Underlying NIDCR’s financial management plan is the Institute’s goal to provide stable levels of support for high quality scientific research.  Non-competing awards will be funded without cost of living/inflationary adjustments in FY 2012; however adjustments for special needs (such as equipment and added personnel) will continue to be accommodated.  This policy applies to all grants (research and non-research) when applicable.  Inflationary increases for future year commitments will be discontinued for all competing and non-competing research grant awards issued in FY 2012, however adjustments for special needs (such as equipment and added personnel) will continue to be accommodated.

Payment of new and competing research project grants will be as close to peer review recommended levels as possible, given overall budgetary constraints.  FY 2012 awards that have already been issued will be revised to adjust the award level and future year commitments in accordance with these principles.  Funding for new and early stage investigators remains an Institute priority.

NRSA awards will be issued with a two percent increase at all stipend levels.  See the complete notice published in the NIH Guide: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-12-036.html

CRS Report: Discretionary Spending in the Affordable Care Act

The Congressional Research Service is out with a new report that captures discretionary spending in the Affordable Care Act. The funding outlined in the report is subject to the annual appropriations process, including the across-the-board cuts triggered by the failure of the so-called Super Committee to produce a deficit reduction plan. Of note, some items have already been modified or removed as a result of the FY10-FY12 appropriations processes. Most of the ACA discretionary components actually funded by Congress so far (FY10-FY12) have been reauthorized existing programs. Few new programs have received appropriations from Congress.

As many will recall, the legislation authorized/reauthorized some items of interest to the dental community: General, pediatric, and public health dentistry training; alternative dental health care provider demonstration (removed through FY12 appropriations process); public health workforce programs; five-year national oral health education campaign through CDC, as well as grants for dental caries disease management programs; school-based dental sealant programs; and oral health surveillance systems -to name a few.

CRS Report: Discretionary Spending in the Affordable Care Act

FY12 Budget Finalized, NIH Up Slightly and NCATS OK’d

In a demonstration of “better late than never,” the House and Senate joined late last week to approve Fiscal Year 2012 spending for the nine appropriations bills that remained. The end of the FY12 appropriations process came roughly 11 weeks late, as the fiscal year began on October 1st. However, some are commending Congress for passage of all of its spending bills in mid-December, since in recent years the annual appropriations process lasted several months -well into the next calendar year. President Obama is expected to sign the package into law by December 23rd -when temporary spending expires.

Provisions of Note in Final FY12 “Omnibus/Megabus” Spending Bill:

[*Note: The Labor-HHS-Education section of the omnibus FY12 spending bill contains a 0.189% across-the-board (ATB) reduction]

National Institutes of Health– Provided $30.7 billion or $299 million (approximately 1%) above FY11. [$30.6 billion after ATB reduction]

NIH is strongly urged to ensure its policies continue to support a robust extramural community and make certain sufficient research resources are available to the more than 300,000 NIH-supported scientists at over 3,100 institutions across the country. The conferees affirm the critical importance of new and competing research project grants (RPGs) to the mission of NIH and are concerned that in the past few years, NIH has failed to support the number of new, competing RPGs that it estimated would be awarded in its annual congressional budget justifications. The conferees expect NIH to evaluate its new grant-estimating methodology to improve its accuracy and support as many scientifically meritorious new and competing RPGs as possible, at a reasonable award level, with the funding provided in this Act.

In recent years, extramural research has accounted for nearly 90 percent of NIH’s budget. The conferees strongly urge NIH to maintain at least that level in fiscal year 2012. NIH should also establish safeguards to ensure the percentage of funds used to support basic research across NIH is maintained.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research- $411.5 million or $1.9 million (0.46%) above FY11. [$410.7 million after ATB reduction]

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)- $576.5 million. [$575.4 million after ATB reduction]

The conference agreement includes language to eliminate the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and create the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

NCATS will study steps in the therapeutics development and implementation process, consult with experts in academia and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries to identify bottlenecks in the processes that are amenable to re-engineering, and develop new technologies and innovative methods for streamlining the processes. In order to evaluate these innovations and new approaches, NCATS will undertake targeted therapeutics development and implementation projects. In all of these efforts, the conferees expect that NCATS will complement, not compete with, the efforts of the private sector.

While the conferees welcome the creation of NCATS, they were disappointed by the way the administration requested it. The President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 included a vague description of NCATS but did not formally request funding for the restructuring or provide any details about which components of NIH would be consolidated into the new Center. The failure to do so caused unnecessary uncertainty about the proposal and contributed to the impression that it was being rushed. The conferees are also aware of concerns that the NIH process for evaluating the merits of the NCATS reorganization did not comply with the NIH Reform Act of 2006 with respect to the role of the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB).

Lessons learned with NCATS should guide NIH as it considers another proposed restructuring, one that would involve consolidating NIDA, NIAAA and components of other Institutes and Centers (ICs) into a new Institute devoted to research on substance use, abuse and addiction. The conferees understand that NIH plans to adopt a more deliberate approach in evaluating the need for this Institute. The conferees strongly recommend that this approach should include full consideration by the SMRB and that if the administration ultimately decides to seek such a restructuring, it should provide sufficient details in a formal budget request to Congress.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oral Health- $14.7 million or $276,000 (1.8%) less than FY11. [$14.67 million after ATB reduction]

The conferees are pleased to learn that CDC has decided to retain the Division of Oral Health. This action is supported by a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report titled “Advancing Oral Health in America” that recommends oral health be given a high priority within HHS. This decision will allow CDC to focus on the prevention and elimination of oral disease, support state oral health infrastructure programs, and improve the coordination of oral health activities with other chronic disease prevention activities.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality- $369 million or $3 million (0.8%) below FY11. [$368 million after ATB reduction]

NIH Slated for 1% FY12 Increase, But Not Really

Late last night, the House of Representatives filed its Fiscal Year 2012 omnibus appropriations bill -as worked out in a conference committee with members of the Senate. The bill indicates that the two chambers have agreed to fund the National Institutes of Health at $30.7 billion, an increase of $299 million or roughly 1% above FY11. The bill conveys the assumption that NIH would fund the same number of meritorious grants as last year.

The 1% increase for NIH is more than negated by two across-the-board cuts proposed by the House. The first is a 0.189% cut to the components of the Labor-HHS-Education bill -which funds NIH. The second is a 1.83% cut to all appropriations bills in order to provide disaster assistance.

House Summary

The House release of the funding bill is likely to be viewed as an attempt to force the hand of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and President Obama, as both have indicated that the FY12 omnibus bill must wait until an agreement on a tax relief bill is reached. If the Senate and White House hold firm, and a temporary spending measure is not passed in the next day, a government shutdown would become a reality.

Following the House budget release, the White House issued a statement calling on Congress to pass another short-term continuing resolution in order to avoid a government shutdown.

White House Statement

Additional details on other budget lines of interest will be made available when the House and Senate formally agree on the spending bill.

The Clock Ticks on FY12 Budget and Taxes

This Friday, December 16th, temporary funding for federal government operations will expire. It’s a similar situation to that which has played out repeatedly this year. Spending decisions are now agreed to in the final minutes before the government is forced to close its doors and turn off its lights.

Since Fiscal Year 2012 officially began back on October 1st, Congress has passed a series of temporary funding measures known as continuing resolutions (CRs) in order to buy itself more time to agree on permanent spending levels for federal agencies and programs. With the current CR expiring on Friday and the winter holidays quickly approaching, Congress has moved permanent FY12 spending decisions to the final stages. The unfinished bills, including the one that funds NIH, have been packaged together into a single bill that has been referred to as a “megabus,” and “omnibus.” However, it appears that the bus is not quite ready to leave the station.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he will not allow the final FY12 spending bill to come to a vote without a decision on expiring tax reductions for the middle-class, and unless controversial policy provisions are left out of the package. With just two days left, we may see another temporary extension or what has been somewhat uncommon this year -compromise leading to a final product.

In related news, the National Journal is reporting that Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)  — who chairs the subcommittee that largely determines NIH funding — has indicated that NIH will see a small budget increase this year. If the comment proves accurate, NIH and the National Science Foundation would have weathered the ongoing budget storm to eek out inflationary increases. Much more advocacy will be necessary in the coming year, but it is clear that the efforts of the health and research communities have contributed to sustained federal investments in science.

FY12 Appropriations in Sight

The House and Senate are apparently nearing the end of the FY12 appropriations process. This week, selected Members (known as conferees) of both chambers continue to meet to finalize spending levels for the current fiscal year. Nine spending bills, including the Labor-HHS-Education bill that funds NIH, remain undone. Once an agreement is developed by the conferees, the legislation returns back to each chamber for a final vote. Details on FY12 spending levels are likely to surface any day now. Stay tuned for details on research funding in the legislation and what will likely be the final opportunity for advocacy this year.

NSF Likely to See Small Boost in FY12, NIH Still in Queue

Despite the fact that Fiscal Year 2012 began more than six weeks ago on October 1st, Congress continues on a slow path to agreement on spending bills for the year. The process has gained some traction of late and it is possible that spending bills will advance to the president in clusters referred to as “mini-buses.” Each mini-bus will contain funding for several agencies not traditionally tied to one another. The first cluster to pass congress will likely be a combination of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) spending bill, Transport-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill and the Agriculture bill.

This week, House and Senate negotiators came to agreement on a FY12 CJS-THUD-Agriculture mini-bus (spending bill). Of interest to the biomedical research community is a 2.5% increase (over FY11) for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The agreement funds NSF at $7 billion, $173 billion more than FY11, but far short of the President’s request for $7.7 billion for the agency for FY12. Given the magnitude of budget cuts currently being discussed on Capitol Hill, the modest increase for NSF is being welcomed by many in the research community. The mini-bus still needs to be voted on by both chambers of Congress, but it is expected to pass and move on to President Obama’s desk.

Summary of the Full FY12 CJS-THUD-Agriculture Spending Bill

Attached to the CJS-THUD-Ag mini-bus is a resolution that would provide continued temporary funding for the agencies yet to receive a FY12 allocation from the appropriations process. The continuing resolution will last until December 16th, allowing Congress additional time to fund the remaining agencies.

The path forward for the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill, which funds agencies critical to the AADR community such as NIH/NIDCR and CDC, remains unclear. However, it is expected that Congress will pass permanent FY12 spending provisions for most agencies by Christmas.

On a separate but related track, the Super-Committee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years appears to be deadlocked. The group has exactly one week to put forward a plan or risk automatic across-the-board cuts to federal agencies -likely felt in FY13 and beyond.

NIH Grant Success Rate Continues to Fall in FY11

The Scientist captures the latest numbers on an alarming trend, the decline of the NIH grant proposal success rate, down to 17.4% for the fiscal year (2011) that just concluded. The situation will worsen if the FY12 appropriations process results in another reduction to NIH funding -as seen in the Senate’s recent draft of a spending bill. Read the full article.

House Sign-on Letter in Support of NIH

As widely reported, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations has proposed a $1 billion FY12 increase (to $31.8 billion) for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) -$10.8 million (to $420.4 million) increase for NIDCR. However, the increase comes at the expense of many other components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) -such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). AADR asks that members of the oral health community call on Congress to support the House increase for NIH, as well as HHS more broadly.

Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA) are circulating a congressional sign-on letter (below) in support of the $1 billion FY12 increase provided in the House bill for NIH. The letter, addressed to appropriators, also states that NIH support should not come at the expense of other programs that supplement the work of the NIH, such as CDC or other medical research and surveillance programs.

Please reach out to your Members of the House to encourage them to sign the Markey-Bilbray letter on NIH. You may advise your House offices to contact Sara Schaumburg in Representative Markey’s office at sara.schaumburg@mail.house.gov by the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 26th if they wish to support the effort.

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