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President Issues FY2014 Budget Request with NIH Increase But No Net Growth in NEI Budget

Legislative Update
April 11, 2013

Yesterday, President Obama sent to Congress a $3.77 trillion spending plan for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 that proposes to replace the sequester’s $1.2 trillion in mandatory budget cuts over ten years with $1.8 trillion in alternative spending cuts and new revenue. Most important to the medical research community, the budget would increase National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding by $471 million, or 1.5 percent over the FY2012 level of $30.6 billion to $31 billion (funding levels net of transfers). Since the budget proposes to eliminate the sequester moving forward, it would restore the 5.1 percent or $1.6 billion cut at NIH by the sequester in FY2013 and then build upon that with the $471 million increase. NIH estimates it will devote $16.9 billion or 54 percent of its budget to fund 36,610 competitive, peer-reviewed and largely investigator-initiated research projects grants (RPGs), reflecting a net increase of $382 million and 351 grants more than FY2012. Within this total, NIH anticipates supporting 10,269 new and competing RPGs, an increase of 1,283 grants over FY2012 levels. In addressing research priorities, NIH plans to spend $40 million on research collaborations with academic institutions, the private sector, and other government agencies through the new Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative; $80 million additional funding for Alzheimer’s disease research within the National Institute on Aging (NIA), bringing total funding to $562 million; $40 million more than FY2012 for the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN), bringing total funding for this National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) program to $50 million; and focusing on ways to improve NIH’s ability to visualize, manipulate, and mine many of the large and complex digital datasets of information, known as “Big Data.”

Although the proposed FY2014 budget would also restore the 5.1 percent or $36 million cut at NEI by the sequester in FY2013, it would reduce NEI’s budget by $2.1 million or 0.3 percent from the FY2012 level of $701.3 million to $699.2 million (net of transfers). The loss is primarily driven by an $8.9 million reduction due to the conclusion of the NEI-sponsored clinical trials known as the Ocular Complications of AIDS (SOCA) studies, meaning that the NIH Office of AIDS Research will no longer contribute to NEI AIDS studies. Per the NEI Congressional Justification, RPGs, which represent $450 million or 64 percent of the NEI budget, will total 1,081, a net decrease of 15 from the FY2012 level, driven by 35 fewer competing grants.

NAEVR has issued a statement expressing its disappointment in the lack of growth in the NEI budget.

Both the House and Senate have passed Budget Resolutions that set a framework for development of the FY2014 appropriations bills. The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee has already held a March 5 hearing with Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) agency heads (including NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.) and a March 13 Public Witness hearing, at which NAEVR witness Hendrik Scholl, M.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) requested FY2014 NIH funding of $32 billion and NEI funding of $730 million. Although the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee has not yet scheduled hearings, it has requested written testimony by May 6, which NAEVR will submit on behalf of the community for eye and vision research.