Home » Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter » Assuring a nation worth defending

Assuring a nation worth defending

Dear Research Advocate,

The news is concerning. President Trump’s proposed FY18 budget, released on Tuesday, fails to embrace national priorities including research and innovation that directly impact health, economic prosperity and national security. Steep cuts for federal research and health agencies run counter to American values and public expectations that research be put to work at the level of scientific opportunity, in order to advance health and quality of life and to drive the economy.
The president’s proposed budget cuts $1.7 trillion over 10 years, almost all of it from non-defense discretionary programs. The FY18 budget proposes cuts of $7.2 billion or 21% for NIH; $1.2 billion or 20% for CDC; $871 million or 32% for FDA; and $819 million or 11% for NSF. The budget eliminates AHRQ as a stand-alone entity and creates a new Institute within NIH called the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality (NIRSQ).
The president’s budget eliminates the Fogarty International Center (FIC) and its $70 million budget, but adds $25 million to the Office of the NIH Director to coordinate global health research across the agency. Research!America, Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), and American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) hosted a webinar today on the vital role the FIC plays in global health outbreaks and more. We’ve never had a higher level of participation in a webinar; we applaud all the advocacy happening in this space and urge more.  You can access a recording of the webinar here.
Research!America Board Members, former Congressman and AAAS CEO Rush Holt, Ph.D., and Sanofi President of Global Research and Development Elias Zerhouni, M.D., authored a terrific op-ed in The Hill providing key arguments countering the president’s budget. I agree with every word and add that while it is important to defend our nation, it’s also important to assure a healthy, prosperous nation, worthy of defending! Read our statement to learn more. Research!America has been quoted in a range of publications in response to the President’s budget, including the Washington Post.
The president’s FY18 budget — like his recommendations for the FY17 budget — received a chilly reception on Capitol Hill. Representatives Hal Rogers (R-KY), Tom Cole (R-OK), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are among many on both sides of the aisle who have expressed concerns about the severity of the cuts to research and public health. The Constitution grants the power to Congress alone to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, the basis of the appropriations role of the Congress. As appropriators consider FY18 it complicates matters that sequestration returns in FY18. That means severe budget caps will automatically be imposed, undermining elected representatives’ commitment to providing for the common defense and general welfare. 
Earlier today, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the new Commissioner of the FDA, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture about the current needs of the FDA. Dr. Gottlieb, who has only held his position for two weeks, spoke to Congress’s concerns regarding the research pipeline, noting that the speed of review is less in need of improvement than is speeding the development process for products. He proposes to increase communication between the FDA and industry earlier to put the right tools and framework in place to ensure safety and efficacy, and that the eventual approval process is swift and efficient. For more on the hearing see an article from Morning Consult.
FDA now has authority to hire the additional staff it sorely needs. As you may recall, the Trump administration imposed a government-wide hiring freeze soon after the Inauguration. While the general freeze was lifted last month, HHS decided to maintain it. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced to FDA employees this morning that HHS has exempted FDA from the continued freeze. To those who have been advocating this loud and long, this is welcome news, especially considering that FDA has nearly 1000 open positions. 
We appreciate our champions in Congress who are fighting to protect research and innovation. They know what you know:  it is not cost effective to put research on hold; it’s not possible to maintain global leadership in science and the benefits of science by slashing federal support; it does not serve American values to support defense by eclipsing other priorities. Your members of Congress must hear from you today and again during the Memorial Day recess, reminding them that they have the responsibility to secure our nation’s future, and that you support them in doing so. Talk about specific agencies and talk about science overall; we must stand together in advocacy for research and innovation. Take Action!


Mary Woolley