On June 21, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins offered testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on the impact of looming budget cuts related to the Budget Control Act of 2011. In the absence of new legislation to prevent the automatic spending cuts, otherwise known as "sequestration," the NIH budget will be reduced by an estimated $2.4 billion to 2004 spending levels.
Dr. Collins informed the Subcommittee that "there would be no way to spare any field of medical research." He also stated that, while the distribution of cuts would depend on scientific priorities, given the breadth of the spending cuts, "…there would be cuts in cancer and diabetes and heart disease. There would be cuts in common diseases and rare diseases. There would be cuts in basic science. There would be cuts in training. We would have to basically spread the pain." Dr. Collins estimated that 2300 fewer grants may be awarded in 2013, which represents a 25 percent reduction in grants as compared to previous years.
Subcommittee members expressed their concerns regarding NIH budget cuts, and discussed the negative impact of the cuts on the United States' global leadership position in medical research. However, there were no indications from the Subcommittee about what solutions might be available and practical to avoid the cuts.
Republican members of the Subcommittee, led by Representative Joe Barton of Texas, questioned Dr. Collins on "Title 42," a program which allows the agency to pay higher-than-average salaries in order to attract top-tier talent. Dr. Collins noted that "…if we did not have this hiring ability, we would not be able to recruit the best and the brightest," who would be able to garner higher wages in the private sector or academia. It is expected that the Subcommittee will continue to review the Title 42 program.
ASH continues its efforts to support the NIH and protect the NIH from budget cuts. ASH has submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies in support of at least $32 billion for the Fiscal Year 2013 funding for the NIH. ASH also signed on to a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate stressing the importance of continuing and increasing investment in cancer research at NIH, and will continue to work with Congress and the NIH to ensure that cancer research including hematologic malignancies remains a priority.
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