NIH funding update – No good news to report

Beginning on September 1, 2010, NIH will no longer have Recovery Act funds to spend

SPIN readers will recall that a major goal for APA and other research advocacy organizations this year has been to obtain a healthy spending increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for Fiscal Year 2011. Beginning on September 1, 2010, NIH will no longer have Recovery Act funds to spend. Prior to receiving the extra $10.4 billion in Recovery Act funds, which were made available over a two-year period, NIH had received subinflationary increases  for six years.

In order to satisfy Blue Dog Democrats and other members of the House for whom the budget deficit is a primary concern, the House Budget Committee is putting forward a "deeming" proposal that would cap discretionary spending at $7 billion below the President’s request for Fiscal Year 2011. The Senate is expected to support a spending cap that is $3 billion higher than that of the House, but still $4 billion below the President’s request.  This election–year pressure on federal spending makes it less likely that advocates will be successful in making the case for a $35 billion appropriation for NIH. If these proposals are adopted by their respective legislative bodies, then the caps will have to be reconciled when an expected omnibus spending bill is brought before Congress.

Some appropriations bills are likely to be passed as stand-alone bills, but the bill that funds NIH (Labor-HHS-Education bill) is not likely to be one of them. That bill will almost surely be rolled into the omnibus bill.

The continuing impact of the deficit is also affecting research agency budgets for FY 2012. In a dispiriting exercise, NIH (along with all domestic agencies funded with discretionary funds) has been asked by the Office of Management and Budget to trim by 5 percent all of the Institute/center budget requests for next fiscal year, FY12, for which planning has already begun. A great deal can happen between now and October 1 of 2011, so it’s too early to say for sure that research agencies will definitely lose those funds, but the trends aren’t promising. 

APA and its research advocacy partners will continue to press for a healthy increase for NIH. Watch this publication and Psychological Science Agenda for the latest word on congressional spending debates.