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Harkin Statement at the Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing on the NIH Budget

March 28, 2012

Harkin Statement at the Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing on the NIH Budget

*As prepared for delivery*

“The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will now come to order.

“Dr. Collins, welcome back to the Subcommittee.  We welcome also Dr. Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute; Dr. Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases;  Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging; and Dr. Thomas Insel, who is both the director of the National Institute of Mental Health and the acting director of the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.  

“Thanks to all of you and the hundreds of thousands of people who are supported by NIH funding, America is the world leader in biomedical research.  But how long America can maintain that status is a matter of growing concern.

“The threat of sequestration looms large.  CBO has estimated that most non-defense discretionary programs, such as NIH, would be cut by 7.8 percent in January 2013 if Congress does not enact a plan before then to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion.  

“The budget plan proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which the House will vote on this week, is even more worrisome.  In fiscal year 2013, the Ryan plan would cut non-defense spending by 5 percent.  The following year, the Ryan plan would cut non-defense spending by 19 percent.  If that cut were applied equally across the government, the number of new NIH grants for promising research projects would shrink by more than 1,600 in 2014 and by more than 16,000 over a decade.  

“That means 16,000 fewer opportunities to learn more about and possibly find cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and any number of other diseases.  

“Such a cut would be devastating not only for medical research, but also for our economy.  

“A study released last week by United for Medical Research concluded that in 2011, NIH funding supported more than 430,000 jobs across the country.  Remember that only a small percentage of NIH funding goes to Bethesda, Maryland.  Most is awarded to researchers at academic institutions all over the United States.  UMR also found that NIH research generated $62 billion in new economic activity last year.  

“Now imagine cutting NIH funding by 19 percent, as the Ryan budget could do in 2014.  That would be a classic case of penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking, especially when China, India and Europe are spending more, not less, on medical research.

“But even under a best-case scenario, the budget for NIH is likely to remain tight for the immediate future.  And so we must do everything we can to ensure that NIH makes the most effective use of the money that is available.

“That was part of the thinking behind the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, or NCATS, which this subcommittee created in last year’s appropriations bill.  NCATS brings together under one roof translational activities that were already being funded but scattered throughout NIH.  For virtually no additional money, NIH now has an opportunity to address translational science in ways that have never been done before.

“I look forward to hearing more about NCATS and other topics from our witnesses.  But first, I yield to Senator Shelby for his opening statement.”

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