A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Additions to the Sequestration Files

Dear Research Advocate:

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee approved the funding bill that includes the Food and Drug Administration. The bill allocates nearly $100 million above the post-sequester levels. Unfortunately, the baseline budgets in the House are so low that this increase is still lower than FY12 FDA funding. We must not fall into the trap of lowering our expectations and applauding an artificial victory. The true mark of success is funding that keeps up with need. We must keep working.

As demonstrated particularly by the 18.6% cut targeted for the House LHHS appropriations FY14 budget, the pressure to shrink government by slashing discretionary spending shows no sign of abating. This pressure continues despite the damage nationwide in furloughs, layoffs, shuttered labs, patients turned away from clinical trials, and uncertainty around the ability of federal agencies to accomplish the basic government functions that help sustain an advanced society.

Speaking of mounting evidence against consequence-blind budget cuts, the lab that quickly identified the ricin toxin in letters sent recently to elected officials is CDC-funded. The Spokane (WA) Regional Health District Bioterrorism Lab is threatened with closure due to budget cuts (read more in the Homeland Security News Wire report). Of course it’s not only ricin-laced letters that must be stopped in their tracks. For example: The president has declared an emerging respiratory infection from the Middle East (known as MERS-CoV) a “potential public health emergency.” How can we expect the CDC to be effective in identifying, preventing and combating this or other global threats without the resources needed to do its job?

More on CDC: In response to recent tragedies, the Institute of Medicine, in collaboration with the National Research Council, was tasked to develop a research agenda to help minimize firearm-related violence. Their report estimates significant research progress can be made in three to five years. Funding this research agenda is an opportunity to advance a field that has been non-existent since the prohibition of CDC firearms research 17 years ago. Neither the IOM nor NRC can advocate to Congress to authorize and adequately fund this research, but stakeholders can — please speak out. Click here to advocate for CDC’s budget by sending a letter to your congressional delegation urging them to sustain the resources needed to defend the health of our nation.

The NIH has released a new sequestration impact fact sheet indicating that, along with the reduction of 700 funded grants (bringing the success rate to one in six submitted), approximately 750 fewer patients will be admitted to its Clinical Center. We have been spreading the word: I was interviewed by radio stations in key congressional districts during the Memorial Day congressional recess as part of our campaign to call attention to sequestration’s impact on medical innovation. Click here to listen to one example, my interview on WFPL-FM in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) home state. Highlights of our multi-pronged Memorial recess initiative, including a social media campaign, can be found here. We are committed to keeping research in the news, coast to coast. Please join in making this a reality. Priorities that Americans hear about regularly become the priorities that their elected representatives support.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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