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NAEVR Participates in Town Hall Meeting to Discuss NIH Reauthorization

On August 25, NAEVR participated in a "Town Hall" meeting hosted by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). NAEVR was an active participant, along with 100+ other representatives of the medical research advocacy and professional society community. Just prior to the "Town Hall" on August 22, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a revised draft of its July 12 initial "Discussion Draft" of legislation to reauthorize the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The "Town Hall" provided an opportunity for the primary author of the draft legislation, Ms. Cheryl Jaeger, to highlight revisions to the July 12 draft. In so doing, she acknowledged the past constructive comments submitted by the research advocacy community and encouraged additional input on the revised draft. She indicated that Committee chair Joe Barton (R-TX) still intends to introduce legislation upon Congress' return after Labor Day that would reauthorize the NIH for a period of three years.

Ms. Jaeger indicated that the Committee leadership was still engaged in negotiations regarding a number of blanks still present in the revised draft, including: funding authorization levels for each of the Fiscal Years (FY) 2007, 2008 and 2009 for three line items, including the Office of the Director, a cluster of 14 mission-specific Institutes, including the National Eye Institute (NEI), and a cluster of 10 science-enabling Institutes/Centers; the process for determining the appropriations levels for individual Institutes and Centers; the percentage levels for contributions (from the Institutes and Centers) to a "common fund" to support trans-Institute, collaborative research that will be administered by a new Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives within the Office of the Director; any changes to the NIH Director's authority to transfer funds from an Institute/Center (currently capped at one percent); and the composition of a new Advisory Council to the NIH Director that will advise on such key issues as administration of the "common fund" and transfers of funds from Institutes/Centers.

In comments to Chairman Barton on the July 12 discussion draft, NAEVR commended the Committee for adopting several of the 2003 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report's recommendations to increase transparency and strengthen the Office of the Director. NAEVR opposed the draft's proposed elimination of line item budgets for mission-specific Institutes, noting that Congressional review of line item budgets for individual Institutes provides an important "check and balance" to the extensively revised internal NIH budget process set forth in the draft. NAEVR also opposed an increase in the current one percent cap on the NIH Director's transfer authority, urging that any "common fund" for trans-Institute activities be funded primarily by NIH budget increases.

NAEVR maintains this position despite the issuance of the August 22 revised draft. NAEVR will continue to advocate its position directly on Capitol Hill and through the "Contact Congress" advocacy activities of its network members.

[Note: Web site home page image from left to right: NAEVR's James Jorkasky, FASEB's Howard Garrison, AAMC's Dr. Richard Knapp].