President Donald Trump’s administration has asked the House and Senate to approve immediate budget cuts of $1.232 billion for the NIH, $314 million for the CDC, and $40 million for the FDA for the current federal fiscal year.
The proposed cuts were among $17.935 billion in spending reductions outlined in a list submitted by the Office of Management and Budget to the House and Senate appropriations committees.
The prospects for enactment of the cuts is uncertain at best. A member of the Senate appropriations committee, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), answered “No, no,” when asked by Bloomberg News if there was a chance the cuts would be enacted.
NIH and other federal agencies operate under FY 2016 spending levels through a “continuing resolution” set to expire on April 28.
The Trump administration said the budget cut it proposed for NIH would shrink two sources of agency grant funding.
“These savings could be achieved by eliminating spending on new IDeA grants ($50 million) and reducing research grants ($1182 million),” according to the list, first reported by Politico.
IDeA stands for the Institutional Development Award program, established by Congress in 1993 to broaden the distribution of states that receive NIH funding. IDeA awards grants to investigators at institutions in 23 states and Puerto Rico, where according to the NIH the aggregate success rate for applications has historically been low. In those areas, IDeA grants also fund research in rural and medically underserved communities.
IDeA consists of two main components designed to strengthen the biomedical research capabilities of institutions and faculty members:
- Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), whose grants are designed to fund “multidisciplinary centers led by peer-reviewed, NIH-funded investigators with expertise central to the theme of the grant proposal.”
- IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), whose grants are “intended to enhance the caliber of scientific faculty at research institutions and undergraduate schools, thereby attracting more promising students to these organizations.”
The proposal marks the second time this month that Trump’s administration has sought to target the NIH for spending cuts.
On March 16, the administration proposed an 18% reduction in the agency’s budget for FY 2018. NIH spending would be sliced by $5.8 billion, to $25.9 billion, and the agency restructured in a “major reorganization” of its 27 institutes and centers designed to “help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities,” according to the administration’s “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.”
CDC, FDA Would See Less
In its budget proposal for FY2017, The Trump administration additionally proposed cuts totaling $314 million for five spending categories at the CDC. The five include public health programs, which would see $65 million less in FY2017 under the Trump administration proposal.
“This would eliminate or reduce less effective or duplicative research and disease-specific programs such as the Prevention Research Centers, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Cancer Registries, Prion Disease, Injury Control Research Centers, Climate Change, and Tobacco Prevention Research,” the budget proposal stated.
Another $50 million cut would go toward CDC’s domestic HIV/AIDS efforts. While maintaining state grants at FY2016 levels, the reduction would instead “eliminate less effective HIV research and prevention activities and accelerate reductions proposed in FY 2018.”
The $40 million proposed FDA spending reduction would be applied toward salaries and expenses, and reflects unspecified “staffing and non-pay administrative reductions.”
“FDA can absorb some of the reductions through administrative savings, including slower than anticipated hiring,” the spending proposal stated.
The proposed FDA reduction comes some 3 months after both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly approved—and Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama signed into law—the 21st Century Cures Act, which calls in part for $500 million over 10 years for the FDA. That funding is intended to help the agency fill 600 vacant positions and implement a streamlined review process for combination drug-device products and other rules aimed at accelerating reviews of new drugs.