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May 19, 2017: ASPET Government Affairs and Science Policy Update

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POTUS detailed budget expected 5/23; House Appropriations Subcommittee holds hearing on advances in biomedical research; House science subcommittees to examine indirect costs for R&D 

President’s Detailed FY 2018 Budget to be Released May 23: In March the Administration released a “Skinny Budget” Blueprint for FY 2018 which outlined the budget priorities of the Administration.  On May 23, the Administration is scheduled to release the details of the summary they put out in March, though a slightly later date is also possible.  The budget plan is expected to propose the transfer of $54 billion from non-defense programs to defense programs.  As a result, the Administration’s detailed budget is expected to propose large and unpopular reductions in many non-defense discretionary programs including NIH, NASA, NSF, NOAA, EPA, USGS, and other R&D agencies.  More specifics on the programs impacted by the Administration’s FY 2018 budget plan will be provided upon its release.  Most agencies will hold public briefings and press conferences during the week of May 23 to present their FY 2018 budget proposals.

House Hearing on Advances in Biomedical Research: The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee on May 16 held a hearing in advance of the release of the Administration’s FY18 budget request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Dr. Francis Collins, Director of NIH was accompanied by the directors of a number of NIH institutes.  In his testimony, Dr. Collins highlighted a number of specific biomedical advances.  Chairman Tom Cole, Ranking Member Nita Lowey, and other members focused critically on the impending Administration’s budget request for NIH which is expected to call for a reduction of $8 billion below the FY 2017 level of $34.1 billion.  The NIH budget has increased by a total of 13.3% over the last two years with strong bipartisan support.

While details of the NIH budget plan won’t be released until at least May 23, there are reports that the Administration will propose a 10% cap on NIH indirect costs, an issue that received significant attention during the hearing. In his testimony, Francis Collins reinforced the importance of facilities and administrative components of research classified as indirect costs and suggested that if efficiency is the goal, one fruitful path would be to rationalize the onerous paperwork requirements surrounding federally funded research.

Research champions from both sides of the aisle reaffirmed their support for robust investment. The Committee’s Ranking Member, Nita Lowey (D-NY), called for another doubling of the NIH budget, and Labor-H Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) expressed concern that the President’s proposed $5.9 billion cut to NIH could be “penny wise and pound foolish.” 

An archived webcast of this hearing is available

House Science Subcommittees to Examine Indirect Cost Rates for R&D: On May 24 the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing to examine the overhead cost of research at 10AM in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The purpose of the hearing is to examine the overhead costs for conducting federal taxpayer-funded research at universities and non-profit research institutions, including how the NSF and other federal research agencies negotiate and monitor indirect costs.  ASPET is covering this hearing and will provide a summary.

FY 2018 Appropriations: With only a little over four months left before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, in addition to a compressed calendar, a delayed presidential budget request, the lack of agreement on spending limits, and a renewed focus on health care legislation, the fiscal 2018 appropriations process looks to be a steep uphill battle yet again. A stopgap spending measure will almost certainly be necessary to avoid a government shutdown come September 30.

Conversations with staff confirm that clearing appropriations bills this year will be a heavy lift; as it is, the current timeline would require the Committee to take up two bills per week- and progress will be largely dependent upon the overall spending level set in the forthcoming budget resolution (coming sometime after the Memorial Day recess). If the budget resolution ultimately cuts NDD (which we expect it will, given the goal of balancing the budget in 10 years without cuts to Medicare and Social Security) we could expect a repeat of 2013 where it becomes very hard to move bills.

As we enter a potentially challenging FY 2018 advocacy climate, it will be important for the community to remain unified in support of sustainable, predictable growth for the agency. Additionally, ASPET is joining efforts coordinated by NDD United and the Coalition for Health Funding to ensure the highest possible investments in non-defense discretionary spending and the Labor-HHS-Education 302(b) allocation, which will facilitate greater investment in NIH and other health priorities.

Last updated: May 19, 2017 

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