Senate Committee Nearly Meets Administration Request for NIH

On July 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill, which funds the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Department of Education, and other agencies with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on a 16-14 vote. As in other Senate appropriations bills, the Senate bill proposes rolling back sequestration, funding NIH at $31.1 billion, including mandatory funding of $150 million for diabetes research. Not included in this total is a legislatively mandated annual transfer of funding from the Hazardous Substance Superfund program to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. This sum typically amounts to around $75 million, and would push the NIH total to $31.2 billion and R&D to roughly $30.3 billion.

FY 2014 R&D expenditures of $30.3 billion would represent a one percent increase above FY 2012 levels, a nearly $2 billion or 6.8 percent increase above FY 2013 post-sequester levels, and a $190 million or 0.6 percent shortfall from the request, not accounting for inflation. Factoring in an inflation rate of 4.0 percent between FY 2012 and FY 2014, the Senate figure would represent about a 2.9 percent decline in R&D funding from pre-sequester spending. It would also continue the long-term decline in NIH R&D funding, which peaked at $33.1 billion in FY 2003 and has declined by about 10.2 percent since.

However, such a funding level would likely only stand up if sequestration is replaced, given that the Senate is working from a discretionary spending limit $91 billion above that allowable by the post-sequester caps; the House appropriation for NIH also remains to be seen at the time of this writing. Without a revision to the post-sequester FY 2014 spending caps, the NIH research budget would likely remain closer to $28 billion, similar to last year.

Within NIH, the largest increase is reserved for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which would receive an $87 million or 15.1 percent boost above FY 2012 levels, largely due to a major increase for the Cures Acceleration Network. The National Institute for Aging would also receive a 5.8 percent boost above FY 2012 levels, in accord with the Administration’s plans to increase Alzheimer’s research funding. The Committee would also provide the $40 million requested by the Administration for the BRAIN Initiative. NIH had intended to eliminate the Science Education and Partnership program, shifting it instead to the Department of Education as part of the Administration’s STEM education reorganization, but the Committee directs NIH to continue funding the program in FY 2014 over concerns about the reorganization.

Elsewhere in HHS, the Committee provides a $540 million boost for discretionary spending at CDC above the President's request, and a $378 million or 5.7 percent increase for total program-level funding. The Committee provides $10 million as requested for gun violence research. Multiple research programs at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, including for health IT, patient safety, and investigator-initiated grants, would also receive increases.

Department of Education (ED). Notably, the Committee declines to provide funding for the Administration STEM education reorganization, dubbed the STEM Innovation initiative, and instead provides funding under the existing appropriations structure. The two primary R&D funders within ED include the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The Committee granted discretionary programs within OSERS' rehab and disability research programs a $42.6 million or 12 percent boost above the President's request. IES received an $18.1 million or 2.7 percent reduction below the request, with the reductions scattered throughout most institute programs except for special education research and evaluation.

Tables: Congressional Action on R&D at HHS | NIH
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NIH in the President's Request | Education and Workforce Development in the President's Request