Dear Research Advocate:
Although Congress officially returns next week, many Members are back in Washington as the debate about the crisis in Syria commands center stage. Members also face looming fiscal deadlines, with only nine legislative days scheduled in September to act on those and a large backlog of other legislation. Given all this, it is not hard to predict how Congress will handle the long- or short-term budget resolutions, debt ceiling, the future of sequestration, tax and entitlement reform, and a myriad of other interconnected items: They will put off decision-making.
Thus a continuing resolution (“CR”), extending FY13 budgets, looks likely, once again kicking the can down the road and, in doing so, kicking patients and researchers alike into the ditch. And things will be worse than the terrible FY13 numbers, given that the Budget Control Act mandates less discretionary spending in FY14 than in FY13 — almost certainly prompting agencies to further decrease their spending while waiting for what might well be a still-lower final appropriations bill (more details here.)
This adds up to “a dark future for science” according to NIH Director Francis Collins. He and other leaders of science believe that the nation is increasingly underprepared to meet existing — not to mention emerging — health threats. Now is the time to hold Congress accountable for avoiding a dark future by making your voice heard. Click here to send a message to your representatives that medical research at NIH, CDC and our other health research agencies must be championed in the upcoming fiscal debates — not cut, not put on hold, but prioritized, championed. After participating online, magnify your voice as a broad coalition joins forces on September 18 to participate in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Hill Day, urging Congress to champion the National Institutes of Health.
Ramping up federally supported research is not a panacea for our fiscal challenges, but it should be part of the solution. The R&D-based industry thrives when federally supported; academic research thrives, driving the U.S. economy and making it possible to forestall or prevent costly diseases like Alzheimer’s. A recent article in The Economist opines on a new book, “The Entrepreneurial State,” which identifies the U.S., for all our wrinkles, as still the world’s most successful entrepreneurial state. And indeed, we should be proud of what has been accomplished in this nation when we have prioritized R&D policy, including relevant fiscal policy. Working to maintain that priority is what our advocacy efforts have helped accomplish so that, with bipartisan support, medical research has fared better than other federal priorities as the deficit reduction wrangling has continued. But we need to keep pushing, not only for large solutions like ending sequestration of discretionary spending and focusing on the actual source of the deficit (tax and entitlement policies) but also to ensure medical and health research remain a bipartisan priority.
We will be talking about priorities, problems and solutions at our “Straight Talk”-themed National Health Research Forum next week. We will be joined by leaders of industry and academia, patient advocates, and agency heads from NIH, FDA and CDC, as well as the head of the Innovation Center at CMS. You should be there, too! Space is limited, so sign up today!