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March 31, 2017: ASPET Government Affairs and Science Policy Update

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Trump Administration proposes $1.2 billion cut to NIG grants in 2017 in the midst of 2018 blueprint uproar; Freedom Caucus may obstruct spending package; House Approps. holds hearing on HHS funding; Grant applicants can now cite Preprints 

FY 2017 Appropriations: With the government currently operating on a continuing resolution set to expire on April 28, Congress must approve a budget bill before this date in order to avoid a shutdown. The White House has announced that President Trump is calling for $1.232 billion in funding cuts from National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant programs. As previously reported, the President released his budget proposal for funding the federal government on March 16th. To offset a major increase in defense and border security funds, Trump has identified ways to decrease nondefense discretionary spending in FY 17. Included in this supplementary proposal are $1.182 billion in reductions to NIH research grants and $50 million in the elimination of Institutional Development Award (IDeA) grants for FY 17. Trump’s proposed cuts would undermine the FY 17 spending bill that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last summer, which included $34.1 billion in funding for the NIH. 

Most members of Congress are not optimistic that the cuts will not occur, as the fiscal year has already begun. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, told CQ, “It's a little late in the process. We've closed out our bills.” 

ASPET partner, the Coalition for Health Funding issued the following statement in response to the proposal: With less than six months left in fiscal year 2017, and one month until funding for the government runs out, the President's proposed FY 2017 budget cuts come too many days late and too many dollars short. A $3 billion cut to public health and health research-implemented this late in the fiscal year-would have devastating and immediate consequences on America's health at a time when the public health community is already doing more with less. More broadly, this request reneges on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, threatens to derail lawmakers' work to negotiate appropriations legislation, and increases the likelihood of a government shutdown. Congress must reject the President's requested FY 2017 cuts and work to strengthen our health security amidst mounting public health threats.  

FY 2018 Budget Resolution: House Republicans are hoping to foster unity around a fiscal 2018 budget resolution after a failed attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act exposed deep divisions within the party between fiscal conservatives and defense hawks.  However, it may be a tough road to consolidate GOP support, as fiscal conservatives demand a plan that shows a path towards eliminating the deficit within 10 years. CQ reports that Republicans on the House Budget Committee have been meeting in private over the past several weeks to hash out budget resolution funding levels, considering past efforts to balance the budget and coming up with new approaches. They aim to mark up a fiscal 2018 budget resolution in May; about the same time the administration says it will release the President's full fiscal 2018 budget. 

House Appropriations Subcommittee Holds Hearing on HHS Funding: This week the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Subcommittee (also known as the Labor-H Subcommittee) held a public hearing with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to discuss the budget of the agency. While the majority of the hearing focused on how proposed cuts will affect the Affordable Care Act and programs to combat the opioid epidemic, several members asked questions about the effects of budget cuts on the NIH. 

Labor-H Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole expressed concern over how NIH would function with an 18% cut in funding. Secretary Price emphasized that the goal is to eliminate waste and redundancy in the organization and cited that 30% of NIH grant money is used to pay indirect costs, as opposed to private foundations in which 10% or less of the grants pay those costs. 

Chairman Cole said his panel would examine NIH grant indirect costs, which could open debate over how much medical research funding supports general expenses at universities. Chairman Cole also said he expects to have the rescheduled NIH budget hearing in May. 

NIH Issues Final Policy on Reporting Preprints in Grant Applications and Progress Reports: On March 24, NIH issued a Notice stating that the agency will allow investigators to report preprints and other interim research products in grant applications and Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPRs) submitted on or after May 25, 2017. Highlights include: 

  • Citation format: Citations for preprints and other interim research products must include the Digital Object Identifier [DOI], Object Type (e.g., preprint, protocol), document version, and date of citation/reference (as applicable)
  • Attribution: Per NIH award guidelines, preprints and interim research products resulting from NIH support should be publicly available, acknowledge funding, and declare competing interests. Authors are also expected to clearly state that the work referenced in preprints is not peer reviewed
  • Repositories: The Notice includes “best practices” for interim research repositories, including accessibility, interoperability, version tracking, links to final (peer reviewed) publications, and long-term preservation of works 

The Notice also included a brief summary of the responses to the Request for Information issued in October 2016. Although NIH will be allowing the use of preprints and interim research products in grant applications and progress reports, several concerns raised in prior comments, such as the need for applicants/awardees to clearly denote preprints/interim research products as having not undergone peer review or the use of preprints/interim research products to get around application/reporting page limits, were included in the final policy.

Trump Administration Designates New Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy: This week the Trump Administration designated Richard Baum to serve as Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy until a permanent Director is nominated and confirmed by the Senate. 

Acting Director Baum has served in a variety roles at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) for two decades and through four presidential administrations. He has a broad range of experience on domestic and international drug control policy issues, including leading the development of key strategic documents such as the National Drug Control Strategy. Most recently, as Chief of the International Division at ONDCP, he was a part of the United States Delegation to the meeting of the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria. 

Acting Director Baum is replacing Kemp Chester, who was appointed as Acting Director on Inauguration Day. During his tenure, Acting Director Chester advanced the Administration’s drug policy priorities, which include promoting prevention and treatment for substance abuse while stopping the trafficking of illicit drugs. Mr. Chester, a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army, will return to his previous role as the Associate Director for the National Heroin Coordination Group at ONDCP, which leads the U.S. Government’s response to the threat of illicit opioids. “I am deeply honored to have been designated by President Trump to serve as Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy,” Mr. Baum said. “In my two decades of service at ONDCP, I’ve seen the heart-breaking suffering caused by illegal drugs, as well as the incredible work of dedicated individuals working to address drug abuse and its consequences. I look forward to continuing that work.” 

Last updated: March 31, 2017 

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