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White House Proposes 27 Percent Cut in NIH Funding in FY 2019, Then Suggests $9.2B Infusion

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – President Donald Trump called for a 27 percent cut in funding to the National Institutes of Health as part of the White House's fiscal 2019 budget plan released today.

However, in a letter from Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the White House urged Congress to allocate additional money to the NIH under higher spending caps that would bring its overall budget to its 2017 level of roughly $33 billion. It was one of several agencies and initiatives outlined by the White House as "administration priorities" that would potentially receive more funding under higher spending cap levels.

In his budget request, Trump highlighted the need to streamline the administrative functions of the NIH, and specifically requested $23.75 billion for the agency in fiscal 2019 — a 27 percent reduction from the current year's level of $32.71 billion. He also proposed integrating the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within the NIH in order to reduce duplication and leverage the expertise of both agencies.

However, last week the Senate forged a two-year bipartisan budget agreement that included lifting defense and non-defense discretionary spending caps in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 — a move that the President signed into law. In light of the higher caps, the White House said in the letter to Speaker Ryan that it would seek an additional $9.2 billion in NIH funding above what is requested in the budget plan, which would return the agency's budget to nearly $33 billion.

While it is unclear how Congress will respond to the President's request, increased NIH funding has been largely supported by both Democrats and Republicans in recent years. For instance, while the President had sought a $6 billion cut to the NIH budget in his fiscal 2018 budget proposal, the Senate appropriations committee proposed a $2 billion increase and a House committee sought a $1.1 billion increase.

And, in announcing their budget agreement last week, Senate leaders said they would seek a $2 billion increase in NIH funding over two years.

The President's fiscal 2019 budget request also calls for funding to the US Food and Drug Administration to remain flat with the current year at $410 million; a 36 percent reduction in funding to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to $296 million from $464 million; and a 31 percent cut to the National Science Foundation's budget to $4.18 billion from $6.03 billion.

However, in light of the lifted spending caps, the White House has asked Congress to increase total fiscal 2019 funding for the FDA to $910 million to support regulatory improvements to advance manufacturing innovation to lower costs for American manufacturers, invest in regulatory science and streamlining to accelerate development of generic drugs, and stimulate and speed development for medical products in general and for rare diseases.

It is also seeking to increase NSF funding under the higher caps to $6.4 billion to advance basic scientific research and upgrade research facilities, and to boost the CDC's budget to $615 million to support public health activities, HIV prevention and surveillance, address chronic diseases, and help repair and improve CDC facilities.