This fall may be the last real opportunity that advocates and ultimately lawmakers have to replace the budget sequester with a balanced alternative. After Labor Day, Congress will return to DC faced with both the impending start of a new fiscal year and need for the debt limit to be increased. It is near certain that the 13 spending bills that fund federal government operations will not be ready by the start of the fiscal year on October 1st, so Congress will have a few weeks in September to put together a stopgap measure to prevent a shutdown. At nearly the same time, Congress will have to approve an increase in the debt limit so that the government can continue to meet its obligations.
The summer lead up to the post-Labor Day legislative session will be a crucial time for advocates to gather stories on the impacts of sequestration on individuals and institutions. As the impacts of sequestration begin to surface, members of the AADR community are encouraged to share stories. Members are encouraged to share stories with AADR Government Affairs via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the NDD United online form, or through the White House online form, or ideally through all three mechanisms.
The budget debacle in Washington known as sequestration remains a mystery to much of the public. It’s not surprising given that — up until a few months ago — many senior policymakers in DC were holding firm to a belief that a last minute budget deal would be reached and the policy would never be implemented. Even today, nearly three months after the President was forced to sign an order setting the sequester into motion, federal agencies are struggling to finalize their plans for implementation. As a result, many of the consequences of sequestration remain unclear to those who will be directly impacted. What is clear is that, without a public push to develop an alternative, Congress is not likely to change course in time for the upcoming fiscal year.
A coalition of advocates representing communities impacted by sequestration continues to work on public and legislative messaging, as well as to capture the real impacts of the policy. The coalition, NDD (Non-Defense Discretionary) United, now consists of over 3,200 groups -including AADR. As mentioned on the coalition’s website, NDD programs are core functions of government and now exist at historic lows as a percentage of GDP, yet they continue to serve as targets for budget reduction. Today, NDD United released a short video that captures our current budget dilemma in a “just the basics” format. Groups and individuals are encouraged to share the video with their personal and professional contacts. A base level of understanding among the general public would be a significant step forward in the campaign to develop a well balanced alternative.
During the Spring 2013 semester, AADR government affairs efforts were supported by Waseem Khaleel -a native of Iraq and now double alumnus of Georgetown University (GU). Waseem, a graduate of the GU MS program in Biomedical Science Policy and Advocacy, was an active advocate over the past four months. He blogged on policy developments — particularly as related to the application of the sequestration provisions in the Budget Controll Act of 2011 — and became a regular in the halls of Congress. He met with several staffers to highlight the importance of federal investments in biomedical research, as well as to discuss a separate project aimed at increasing testing for diabetes.
In just a few years, Waseem has undertaken a rather incredible journey. Much of his youth was spent in Baghdad, where he witnessed the effects of war firsthand. Recognized as a promising student, he was awarded a scholarship to pursue undergraduate studies at Georgetown University. He earned a perfect grade point average in his final semester of graduate studies at GU and is now finishing a second internship with a medical imaging organization while seeking a permanent role in the government affairs community. Waseem hopes to one day apply the knowledge attained through his various educational and professional experiences to serve his community back home.
On behalf of the larger oral health research community, the AADR staff congratulates Waseem on his second graduation in as many years and thanks him for his service.
Last week, Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, released a discussion draft of anticipated legislation entitled the High Quality Research Act. While the title appears supportive of research, the text conveys an intent to alter the well established peer review system of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill establishes new criteria for the awarding of NSF grants:
(1) is in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
(2) is the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and
(3) is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies. Continue reading
The Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations process is proving to be just as tumultuous as its predecessor. The House of Representatives is moving forward with a $967 billion spending plan for FY14, which is $91 billion less than the Senate’s target. The difference is attributed to the fact that the Senate Appropriations Chair, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), is using a target that assumes that the sequester will be repealed.
Digging a bit deeper into the House majority’s blueprint, one finds that security-related line-items are maintained roughly at current levels while non-security items are reduced by approximately 17%. The FY14 House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations allocation, which funds NIH and a host of other domestic agencies, is 22% below the current level. While many, on both sides of the aisle, view the House framework as untenable; the same was once thought of a budget sequester. In just a few months, a policy that was considered unthinkable by the most senior officials in government has become a reality. It stands to reason that the new House plan for FY14 should be taken quite seriously. Continue reading
Yesterday, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations to testify on behalf of the Fiscal Year 2014 President’s Budget Request (PBR) for the agency. He was accompanied by the directors of NIAID, NHLBI, NIA, NINDS, and NCI. The FY14 PBR contains $31.331 billion for NIH, representing a 1.5% increase over FY12, and a 7.4% increase over what is likely to be the final FY13 budget after the sequester is applied.
Dr. Collins spoke of “perilous times” within the biomedical research community, explaining that if the reductions associated with the Budget Control Act of 2011 are allowed to continue, NIH will lose $19 billion over the course of the 10-year period covered by the legislation. He stated that 703 fewer research project grants will be funded in FY13 as compared with FY12, while describing major increases in biomedical research being made around the globe. Continue reading
The NIH has released tables that capture the types of grants that will be cut in FY13 -largely resulting from the sequestration order issued on March 1st. The document provides details at the overall NIH levels as well as those of the individual institutes and centers. For the NIDCR, research projects grants drop from 619 to 549 or by 8.3%. NIDCR does appear to have been able to preserve its commitment to training, as the number of training grants will be essentially unchanged -dropping from 256 to 255. The final NIDCR budget for Fiscal Year 2013 will be roughly $387,003, a reduction of 5.7% from the FY13 level of $410,332. Additional details on the NIH/NIDCR operating plan for 2013 will be available in the next few days.
NIH FY13 Mechanism Table