It turns out, they like us, or so they say. Biomedical researchers should take note that for the second year in a row, U.S. Senate appropriators have declared funding the National Institutes of Health a...
What is sequestration?
The Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) established caps on discretionary spending over 10 years, resulting in $1 trillion in cuts spread across defense and nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs. The law also directed a congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to identify an additional $1.2 trillion in budgetary savings over 10 years. The failure of the bipartisan “super committee” to agree on a deficit reduction plan triggered a “sequester” to take effect on January 2, 2013.
Congress averted the January deadline by extending the deadline to March 1, 2013.
In the context of funding federal programs, sequester means imminent, across-the-board cuts to most programs, both defense and nondefense—in addition to the $1 trillion in cuts already sustained through the Budget Control Act’s discretionary caps.
The budget sequester will be disastrous for our economy and security. The sequester was never intended to take effect – it was an irrational deterrent meant to force both sides to the table and still ought to be viewed as an unacceptable alternative to inaction on the part of Congress.
How will the sequester impact NDD programs?
The sequester will mean an automatic 6.4% cut to program funding levels in 2013 for most NDD programs including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These cuts will truly be across-the-board, with no departmental or agency able to control how the sequester impacts individual programs. Cuts of this level will be devastating to the public health infrastructure.
For example, cuts to the NIH will stifle medical discoveries that save lives and drive our economy. NIH supports scientists in every state across the nation; thus, every state will feel the sequestrations’ effects. In eight states, these cuts will exceed $100 million. Labs will shut down, scientists will be laid off, and local businesses that support research centers will close. More troubling, progress on promising cures will grind to a halt, while China and other global competitors double and triple their research investments.
Under sequestration, NSF could lose a total of $2.5 billion in funding. Cuts of this size could return NSF’s R&D budget to roughly FY 2009 levels. For context, what NSF programs receive funding of an equivalent magnitude to these figures? The average cut under the balanced scenario, $421.3 million per year, is about equivalent to half the Engineering Directorate budget, roughly two-thirds of the Biological Sciences Directorate budget, or half the size of the Education and Human Resources directorate. It is also an amount equivalent to the agency’s spending on polar programs, and larger than the current individual budgets for several cross-agency initiatives, such as the Faculty Early Career Development program, the Graduate Research Fellowship program, or advanced manufacturing or sustainability research funding initiatives. In FY 2012, NSF grants averaged about $161,000 per year, and so $421.3 million could have funded about 2,600 of these in FY 2012.
What must be done!!
Congress can still act to prevent these devastating cuts! It is imperative that you contact your Members of Congress. To do so, you can use the letter found here. Write a letter to the editor. A sample and guidelines are shown below. Ask all of your friends, colleagues, and family members to participate. Sign up to follow your member of Congress’ tweets, then tweet him/her examples of why research matters. If you need further suggestions, contact the CLS. We will provide you with many examples of things you can do that can make an impact.
The appropriations process that normally leads to a federal budget has come to a stop. The House Appropriations Subcommittee has approved its budget which includes flat funding for the NIH and the NSF.. The full Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its bill with $100 million more for the NIH than FY12, the President’s budget request, and the House bill. Neither the House nor Senate is going to do any more. Congress passed a six-month continuing resolution (CR) bill that is set to expire on March 27.
All attention now turns to sequestration. Sequestration will cut about 6.4% to every domestic and defense program of the federal budget, including the NIH and the NSF.
Sequestration will severely hinder medical innovation and job growth.
If we are to address the health challenges of an aging and increasingly diverse population, and remain a vibrant force in the global economy, America needs more investment in medical research.
Tips for Writing a Letter to the Editor
A Letter to the Editor (LTE) is an easy way to make a BIG impact. Editors do not publish every LTE, but they do pay attention—especially to letters that are well-written and connected to an article they just published. Here are a few helpful tips:
Writing Your LTE
Submitting Your LTE
We’ve drafted the following LTE template to help guide you. Please feel free to use this version, or draft your own from scratch!
To the Editor:
As the new Congress begins work on many challenging budget issues, I urge Representative [YOUR REPRESENTATIVE’S NAME HERE] and Senators [YOUR SENATORS’ NAMES HERE] to oppose cutting biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Sequestration will result in a 6.4% cut to the NIH and the NSF budget, which means the impact on jobs and economic activity is staggering: a likely loss of 33,000 jobs across the United States and a $4.5 billion decline in economic activity. The threat of these cuts—and the lack of consistency and predictability in the level of medical research funding—has already introduced a tremendous uncertainty into the medical research enterprise and is encouraging investigators with promising research proposals to pursue opportunities abroad. If lawmakers can’t put politics aside to avoid it, these cuts will compromise our nation’s security, global competitiveness, and economic growth.
NIH research funding is an investment in our country’s future. I will be watching for our congressional delegation’s leadership on this issue.