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With White House Budget on Way, FASEB Seeks $32B to Restore NIH to Pre-Sequester Level

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology wants the Obama Administration to put $32 billion in its 2015 budget, a sum that would help the agency make up for what it lost due to federal spending cuts over the past year.

FASEB said increasing NIH's budget to $32 billion for next year from the $29.9 billion the agency received this year would fully restore the funding that was lost due to the sequestration, which cut 5.5 percent out of the agency's funding, or $1.55 billion.

Some of the funding lost to sequestration was regained when a deal was struck between negotiators in the House and Senate at the end of 2013 that resulted in NIH receiving the $29.9 billion for 2014.

Providing $32 billion this year would essentially restore the NIH funding that was lost, and would support an additional 600 competing research project grants this year, said FASEB.

With the release of the proposed budget, which is scheduled for tomorrow, the White House kicks off the annual appropriations season — a process which in recent years has been an exhibition in government dysfunction and political squabbling that has failed to result in budget deals.

But after a two-year agreement that set budget caps for 2014 and 2015 was hammered out at the end of last year, this year's appropriations calendar could result in both houses of Congress producing bills to fund most of the non-discretionary branches of government, Jennifer Zeitzer, FASEB's director of legislative relations, told GenomeWeb Daily News on Friday.

The recent budget agreement, however, sets funding caps for all federal discretionary spending, which is expected to produce disputes over which agencies in government might see their funding cut and could keep budget bills from making it to the floor of either chamber for full votes, Zeitzer said.

Because the budget cap for FY 2015 is roughly the same as 2014, $1.014 trillion compared to $1.013 trillion, there may not be a lot of wiggle room for individual government agencies to seek more funding next year, Zeitzer explained. Also impacting the process this year is the mid-term Congressional elections, she said, which makes it likely that the government will probably be funded for at least a while past the end of the fiscal year under a continuing resolution that would keep spending at its current level.

The boost to $32 billion would "stabilize" the NIH budget, Zeitzer said. But, she added, "a stable budget may be the best we can do. The fundamental problem is that we are still living under these spending caps."

In its budget proposal, FASEB suggests that even the $32 billion would only make up for some of what NIH has lost in recent years, because the sequestration of 2013 was preceded by "a decade of flat funding" that caused the amount of R01 grants awarded each year to fall by 27 percent between 2003 and 2012.

"The current situation is decimating the ranks of our scientific workforce by causing productive scientists to seek alternative careers and discouraging talented trainees from pursuing jobs in academic research," FASEB said.

This Wednesday nearly 50 scientists will deliver FASEB's funding proposals to more than 80 congressional offices during the organization's annual Capitol Hill Day, an effort to get scientists to make the case for biology research funding directly to members of Congress and their staffs.

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