Consequences of a CR
Jennifer Zeitzer, legislative director for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, told GEN that if Congress agrees to a CR, it would not necessarily mean funding equal to that of last fiscal year. The current CR cut 1.5% from FY 2011 spending.
“If they continue at the current CR level, then that’s going to be a percent and a half below 2011, so there would be a cut in 2012 plus the looming cuts coming in 2013,” Zeitzer cautioned. “That’s just going to be enormous for NIH.”
Zeitzer and Dave Moore, senior director, government relations for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), said the size of FY 2012 budget will be key to gauging how severe the automatic cuts, or sequestration, will be for NIH and researchers who depend on grant funding from the agency.
“Part of the difficulty of projecting the impact of sequestration on any budget, NIH specifically, is the fact we don’t know what the 2012 number is going to be,” Moore told GEN. “If we have to take 8% in an across-the-board cut, what base are we taking that from?”
Complicating efforts to gauge the effect of cuts in NIH, he said, are variations in the size of research grants and uncertainty over how NIH might carry out an across-the-board cut: Slice from center grants or individual research project grants? Reduce the size of grants?
Earlier this month, AAMC urged appropriations leaders in the House and Senate to fund NIH at the highest level possible. “I’m not terribly optimistic that we’re going to see much of an increase when all is said and done,” Moore said.
During their respective budget-crafting processes, the Senate Appropriations committee approved, on September 21, $30.5 billion for NIH, down 0.6%, or $190 million, from last fiscal year’s budget of about $30.68 billion. House Appropriations, however, proposed a $31.7 billion NIH budget, up about $1 billion from FY 2011, through an unusual draft Labor-HHS-Education spending bill championed by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). The House plan echoes President Obama’s budget proposal for a $200 million, or 3% increase, from FY 2011’s funding level of $30.5 billion.
The House tied its proposed budget hike to a pair of stipulations opposed by Moore and other NIH advocates as examples of micromanagement. The House Appropriations measure would require the agency to award at least 9,150 new and competing grants and maintain a 90–10% split between funding for its extramural and intramural research programs.