Senate Hears NIH Funding Woes

Top brass at the US science agency aired monetary grievances before a Senate committee last week.

May 20, 2013
Bob Grant

WIKIMEDIA, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURYThe already slim budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is being further sapped by the government-wide sequester to the point that a whole generation of US scientists is at risk, according to agency director Francis Collins. After highlighting “exciting new initiatives” at the NIH and praising President Barack Obama’s $31.3 billion 2014 budget request for the agency, Collins bemoaned the belt tightening that the sequestration—a 10-year, across the board cut to discretionary funding mandated by the Budget Control Act—has set in motion.

“If the Budget Control Act-imposed caps on discretionary programs continue, and NIH funding is reduced proportionally over the next 10 years, funding will decline by about $19 billion,” Collins told the US Senate’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education last Wednesday (May 15). “The consequences will be harmful to scientific progress and to American leadership in science.”

The sequestration would cut 5 percent of the NIH’s appropriation, essentially eliminating the 1.5 percent provided by Obama’s 2014 budget and leaving the agency $1.6 billion short of its 2013 budget. And if the sequester remains in place for a decade, NIH funding would suffer the $19 billion loss Collins mentioned in his plea to the Subcommittee.

“At a time when global competition in the life sciences is intensifying, the American economy cannot afford to lose ground in scientific efforts that promote human health,” he said.