No Government Spending Increase for the NIH

Research budgets at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will remain flat in 2015, according to a spending deal reached by lawmakers in the US Senate and House of Representatives this week. However, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will receive a small boost.

On December 9, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill—the legislation to provide discretionary funding for most of the federal government for the current fiscal year.

The NIH will receive $30 billion ($150 million more than in fiscal year 2014). According to ScienceInsider, advocates for biomedical research say that this small increase won’t allow NIH spending to keep pace with inflation.

“Congress has missed a major opportunity to fund advances in science and medicine that improve our nation’s health and economic outlook,” said Carrie Wolinetz, a lobbyist with the Association of American Universities and president of United for Medical Research, in a statement. “Sustained increases to the NIH budget are necessary to close our nation’s innovation deficit—the widening gap between the current medical research funding levels and the investment required to ensure the US remains the world’s innovation leader.”

However, the NSF received a 2.4% increase, to $7.34 billion. According to ScienceInsider, this is $89 million above the president’s request, but falls short of the $222 million boost that the House of Representatives approved last May.

Within this increase, the NSF’s 6 research directorates would grow by $125 million, to $5.93 billion, and its education directorate would increase by $20 million, to $866 million. NSF will also get two-thirds of the $40 million increase it requested operating expenses, most of which will go toward its planned move to a new building in northern Virginia.

Ebola research will get about $5.2 billion in emergency spending (which is not counted as part of the regular budget). This is $800 million less than the White House requested. It includes $25 million for the Food and Drug Administration—some of this money may be used to expedite testing and approval of human drugs and vaccines.

The $1.013 trillion package sets spending levels for the 2015 fiscal year, which began 1 October. Lawmakers were unable to reach agreement on 2015 spending levels in September, so the government has been operating on a temporary measure that froze spending at 2014 levels. This temporary measure expires December 12—the House and Senate are moving to vote on the new spending agreement by then.

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