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FASEB Chides White House for 'Paltry' NIH Budget; Praises DOE, NSF Budgets

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology today criticized the White House’s fiscal 2008 budget proposal for the National Institutes of Health, claiming it “deal[s] harshly with our country’s premier medical research agency.”
However, the organization praised the Administration’s proposed budget for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and for the National Science Foundation.
The Administration’s budget for fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1, proposes $28.7 billion for the NIH, an increase of $232 million, or .9 percent, over the $28.5 billion the NIH received in fiscal 2007.
FASEB said the real increase amounts to $32 million after $200 million marked for the Global AIDS Fund is transferred out of NIH. But taking into account biomedical inflation, the NIH would lose $1.05 billion in funding, which reflects a nearly 3-percent decline from fiscal 2007.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis and the NIH’s budget office estimated that biomedical inflation will be 3.7 percent for both fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2008. Those figures are based on changes in average prices of NIH expenses such as personnel, services, equipment, and supplies.
Calling the proposed NIH funding increase “paltry,” FASEB President Leo Furcht said in a statement that the amount “stands to cause grievous harm to our ability to combat debilitating disease … [and leaves] us woefully unprepared to deal with emerging illness or pandemic influenza.”
According to Furcht, Bush, on a recent visit to the NIH’s headquarters in Bethesda, Md., said: “I truly believe the NIH is one of America’s greatest assets. And it needs to be nourished.” 
“Far from nourishing,” Furcht wrote, the President’s proposed budget “represents further deprivation and attrition of this invaluable agency.”
Furcht said the that President’s budget “looks far worse” in light of the boost the NIH hopes to receive from Congress in this year’s Joint Funding Resolution, which appropriates an extra $620 million for fiscal 2007 to plug funding shortfalls and fuel high-risk research.
But FASEB Legislative Director John Retzlaff said the NIH can not count on a similar congressional resolution for fiscal 2008, which could help the NIH spend on things other than ongoing grants and research.
The hope for the NIH, as FASEB sees it, is that the Administration’s budget may undergo an overhaul on Capitol Hill. “We’re going to do everything we can to see that [the budget] is dead on arrival,” Retzlaff told GenomeWeb News
In its statement, FASEB praised the Administration’s proposed support for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which would receive $4.4 billion, and for the National Science Foundation, which the White House requested about $6 billion.
In its annual report, FASEB prescribed $4.4 billion for DOE’s science office and about $6.5 billion for the NSF. 
Last week FASEB recommended that NIH funding should “increase on a 3-year plan” to make up for “losses caused by biomedical inflation.”
That recommendation, which appeared in FASEB’s annual report, also said genomics and protein research were important reasons to increase NIH’s funding.
The White House did not immediately available for comment.

In December, the NSF found that inflation-adjusted federal funding going to the National Human Genome Research Institute and the DOE’s Human Genome Project is likely to decline 1.5 percent in fiscal 2007 over fiscal 2006.

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