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President Issues FY2019 Budget and Addendum That Funds NIH Below What Congress Has Proposed for FY2018, Cuts NEI Funding

Legislative Update
February 13, 2018

Yesterday, the White House released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request and a budget addendum to account (in part) for new discretionary spending caps enacted as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which was passed by Congress on February 9. On a preliminary read of the documents and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) “Budget in Brief,” the Administration appears to be proposing a total of $35.517 billion in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in FY2019, including:

  • funding through the 21st Century Cures Act ($711 million);

  • funding for three existing agencies elsewhere that the Administration is proposing to consolidate within NIH [the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as a new institute (National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality, as proposed in the President’s FY2018 budget), with $380 million; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (including the Energy Employee Occupational Injury Compensation Act program, currently administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC), with $255 million; and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (currently administered by the Administration for Community Living), with $95 million]; and

  • funding from the DHHS-wide initiative for opioids [an initial allocation of $750 million to NIH as part of the DHHS-wide $10 billion investment to fight the opioid crisis and address serious mental illness," including $400 million for NIH's public-private partnership on opioids and $350 million for research on opioids, serious mental illness, and pain].
As in the Administration’s FY2018 budget request, the FY2019 proposal would reduce the Extramural Salary Cap from Executive Level (EL) II ($187,000) to EL V ($152,000)—each expressed as FY2017 levels (since FY2018 appropriations not finalized). Unlike the FY2018 request, it does not propose to reduce reimbursement for Facilities and Administrative (indirect) costs in NIH grants.

Although the DHHS “Budget in Brief” characterizes the FY2019 NIH $35.5 billion funding level (inclusive of three new agencies to manage) as “+$1.4 billion above the FY2018 Continuing Resolution” because FY2018 appropriations have not yet been finalized, the FY2018 spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in September and supported by the medical research community would provide $36.1 billion for NIH).

While the FY2019 budget proposal’s appendix indicates that the Administration originally was planning to propose substantial cuts to the NIH budget for FY2019, according to the addendum the White House is proposing to use $9.167 billion of the new funds available under the recently enacted Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 "to return funding for NIH to the FY2017 enacted level of $33 billion" in FY2019. The $9.167 billion would be appropriated to the Office of the Director with transfer authority that would authorize the NIH Director to allocate these resources across NIH Institutes and Centers (I/Cs). However, the allocations in the “Budget in Brief” show decreases in funding at most I/Cs, including the National Eye Institute (NEI), which is proposed to be funded at $711 million in FY2019—$20 million below its FY2017 budget of $731 million (net of transfers and rescissions) and $48 million below the Senate Appropriations Committee-proposed FY2018 funding level of $759 million. NAEVR is awaiting posting of the NEI’s FY2019 Congressional Justification to provide greater detail.

In response to the budget blueprint, NAEVR is supporting the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research’s statement that “rather than strengthening the federal commitment to the NIH, the President’s FY2019 budget proposal effectively would freeze funding for the agency at a level that falls below what Congress has proposed for even FY2018". In a February 9 ARVO Advocacy Day hosted by NAEVR, the vision community requested for FY2019 a $2 billion increase in NIH funding to $38.1 billion and a $41 million NEI funding increase to $800 million (based on the Senate Appropriations Committee-proposed funding levels of $36.1 billion for the NIH and $759 million for the NEI in FY2018).

As is often stated, “The President proposes, the Congress disposes,” meaning that that the Congress—especially the Committees that deal with appropriating funds and authorizing program—will have the final say on the FY2018 budget.