Spotlight

Dr. Keith Yamamoto, Vice Chancellor for Research, UCSF
Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine
Professor, Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology

Representing the Coalition for the Life Sciences
April 22, 2014

Testimony for the Record for...

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
January 28, 2014

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
State of the Union Address
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Washington, D.C.

Sequestration Action Zone

Sequestration: What Is It and What You Must Do About It

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.

  • The impact of sequestration on NIH-funded research will be immediate and devastating.
  • Sequestration cuts to NIH will most certainly 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 sequester’s effects.
  • Almost as soon as sequestration goes into effect, 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.

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

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

  • Make it relevant. Relate your LTE to an issue recently (within the last day or two) discussed in the publication to which you are writing.
  • Be concise. The first sentence should summarize your position. One of the biggest mistakes in LTE writing is using the first paragraph (or the entire letter) to build to the point. Most editors read 2-3 sentences before making a decision to go on.
  • Mind your word count. Check the LTE guidelines for the paper you are targeting. If they give a word count, follow it. If they don’t, 200 words are generally considered the maximum length.  Many papers will not consider LTEs that exceed the word count.


Submitting Your LTE

  • Many newspapers have specific format requirements, so please check the paper’s website before submitting. Always include full contact information for the author(s).
  • Follow the guidelines. Follow the outlet’s rules regarding LTEs and make sure to adhere to the guidelines on length.
  • Spell everything correctly and pay close attention to grammar—letters are not usually edited, rather the outlets select well-written letters that meet their guidelines.
  • Email your LTE to ensure timeliness. To do this, paste the LTE text into the body of an email—DO NOT SEND AS AN ATTACHMENT. You may also fax it, but sending it electronically is generally the preferred way to receive LTEs.
  • Follow up. Once you have submitted your LTE, follow up with a call 24 hours later to find out if it will be printed.

Sample Letter to Editor

We’ve drafted the following LTE template to help guide you. Please feel free to use this version, or draft your own from scratch!

[DATE]

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.

[NAME]
[ADDRESS]
[PHONE]
[EMAIL]