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Cautious Optimism Is Not a Done Deal

Dear Research Advocate:

The clock is ticking; rumors abound; deals are on and off and the only thing certain is that we’ve been down this road four times already for this fiscal year without a resolution – yes, you guessed it! We are facing yet another round of flat government funding under a continuing resolution (CR). The current CR will expire on January 19, just a week from tomorrow.

The latest news is that negotiations are moving ahead on a two-year package to raise the caps on defense spending by $72B in FY18 and $80B in FY19, and on non-defense spending by $45B in FY18 and $50B in FY19. I am cautiously optimistic that a deal will move forward, enabling appropriators to use the reprieve offered by the next CR – which we expect will expire in about a month – to incorporate the new, higher spending levels into a final FY18 omnibus spending bill.

However, there is a world of potential disappointment in the zone between “cautiously optimistic” and “done deal,” so it is crucial to keep up the pressure. Research!America and partners from across the science community are running print and digital ads in several inside-the-beltway news outlets, calling for a budget deal that fuels increased funding for R&D, and encouraging advocates to use the hashtag #RaisetheCaps in social media messages. If you haven’t seen the ad, I hope you’ll check it out. Not only is it one of the most compelling images we’ve used over the course of our nearly 30 years in advocacy, but the digital version links to one-stop-shopping for advocacy via Twitter, email and phone. How about sending a quick tweet now?

Research!America alliance members discussed the prospects for a caps deal and a number of other key advocacy issues today during our first meeting/call of 2018. Pete Kirkham, House Labor-H Chairman Tom Cole’s (R-OK) former chief of staff and a consultant to Research!America, provided a look at what 2018 has in store for us, and Research!America VP of Communications, Suzanne Ffolkes, led a conversation about how to best leverage the #RaisetheCaps advertising campaign between now and January 19. Some cautious optimism was expressed, with an emphasis on advocacy to achieve “done deals” that we can all celebrate!

Also discussed in the meeting: advocacy imperatives across the diversity of federal research agencies within Research!America’s mission, very much including PCORI (its authorization expires in 2019) and the strong possibility that the President’s budget will propose a particularly deep cut to NSF (even if Congress once again opts to set the President’s proposal aside, the lower the bar the President’s budget sets, the more cover Congress has for cuts); the medical device excise tax (help secure its suspension by taking action; decisions are being made now!); drug pricing (an issue that the prospective new HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, is likely to address in some way, with implications for the research ecosystem as a whole); congressional retirements (here’s the current list); infrastructure and earmarks (as they bear on science investment); and FY19 funding. It was a far-reaching and fruitful discussion packed into a 45-minute timeframe: join us next time!

Speaking of research agencies within our mission, FDA released its 2018 Strategic Policy Roadmap. I hope you take a minute to read Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s introduction, which captures the breathtaking potential unleashed by science and the daunting challenges FDA faces as it seeks to fulfill a dizzying array of public health responsibilities. And if you are, or know of, a patient, caregiver or advocate who would like to provide input as FDA continues its efforts to incorporate the patient perspective into its regulatory decision-making, the agency is accepting nominations for its Patient Engagement Collective (PEC) until January 29.


Mary Woolley