Budget proposal launches Congress into months of debate over FY2012 spending priorities
President Obama has recommended that Congress boost funding for biomedical research by $745 million in fiscal year 2012.
In a budget plan that proposes a freeze in overall nondefense discretionary spending for five years, an increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was a bright spot that underscored the president’s commitment to research.
The proposed increase within the annual budget proposal, released Feb. 14, would raise the NIH budget to about $31.98 billion, a 2.4 percent increase over the last budget approved for the agency. In FY2010, NIH received a total of $31.2 billion. Congress has yet to approve a budget for the current fiscal year, which will end Sept. 30, and the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution that expires March 4.
Included in the president’s budget proposal for NIH is $100 million for the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN), which would be funded through the office of the NIH director. CAN was authorized in the health care reform law passed in 2010, to aid in speeding the translation of basic scientific discoveries into treatments for patients.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) would receive an increase of $161 million, a 2 percent increase that would bring its total to about $5.2 billion. Cancer research was specifically highlighted within the budget text: “NIH will continue to pursue the leading edge of discovery in basic cancer science, development of new cancer treatments, and prevention and early detection of cancer, focusing on recent discoveries regarding cancer genomes.”
Other key items in the budget include $2.7 billion for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an increase of $147 million over FY2010; and $390 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a $12 million decrease.
Prior to releasing the budget, President Obama took the opportunity during the State of the Union address before Congress to inspire support for investment in biomedical research:
“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology and especially clean energy technology—an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people.”
Whether or not Congress will take these words to heart as the debate over FY2012 spending priorities officially begins remains to be seen, although legislators are already calling for far greater cuts than what the president has proposed.
The next step in the budget process is for House and Senate Budget Committees to develop a "budget resolution" which divides spending totals into broad functional categories. Congress is supposed to approve the resolution by April 15, but it often misses that deadline.
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