Public Policy Update
As this issue of the Monitor reaches your mailbox, Congress should have just wrapped up its work on the 13 annual spending bills that fund everything from agriculture to Veterans Affairs. However, if this year is like the last several, Congress may be running into overtime. Many competing interests always vie for a limited pool of funds, but this year's enormous unexpected pressures--such as the war in Afghanistan and security concerns--have been brought to bear on the appropriations process over the last few months, putting a squeeze on many government programs.
Having said that, those of us who advocate for research funding are optimistic and with good reason. For example, the Senate has delivered the final installment of a five-year plan to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has provided record funding for the Department of Defense Science and Technology account that includes basic behavioral research.
But Congress doesn't just dole out money; it also doles out advice. And that advice comes in the form of "report language," the explanatory text accompanying a bill that cuts through the legalese and generally lauds (but sometimes condemns) various programmatic initiatives. While this language doesn't carry the force of law, it is meant to convey to funding agencies what Congress likes (and doesn't like) about how agencies spend the money.
Public Policy Office staff spend considerable energy working with congressional staff to develop report language that supports behavioral and psychological research across a range of federal funding agencies. This year, the investment has paid off, and APA's report language was used to support programs at 10 of the Institutes at NIH, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, for the first time in many years, the Senate Defense Appropriations bill included APA's report language in support of behavioral research at the military service laboratories. We are indebted to Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) for their support of these APA priorities.
Geoff Mumford, PhD, is APA's director of science policy.