Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fiscal Reset

Another crisis averted, right? Despite the Congresses’ apparent penchant for last minute drama, a deal was struck and the debt limit has been raised. So how did research fare?

Well, that is not an easy question to answer. The deal is comprised of long-term, 10-year caps and shorter term cuts to total discretionary spending. The caps will essentially prevent any real growth of discretionary spending, which contains all federal research agencies like NIH and NSF. For those of you familiar with government budgeting, this is similar to a long term continuing resolution.

Under the terms of the deal, for an agency budget to grow, the money would have to be re-purposed or offset from an existing discretionary program. In the past, Congress could simply increase the spending cap, which would give appropriations committees the funds needed for increases. Not anymore though.

Obviously, a flat budget is preferable to the deep cuts put forward by the House earlier in the fiscal year. However, for those familiar with biomedical inflation, a flat budget is equivalent to a funding cut. R&D budgets have not been able to keep pace with inflation, which means that a dollar today is worth significantly less than it was in the previous year.

What we do know is that research needs advocates now more than ever. Our nation is in the midst of a radical shift in fiscal policy and lawmakers are looking to their constituents to help set priorities. Make sure they know that research is an indispensable investment in America’s future.

Members of Congress are already returning to their districts for the August recess. Set up an in district meeting with your representatives today. We have several web tools to help.

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