Days before a 5.1% cut may or may not occur, the NIH released its agency-wide “Operation Plan in the Event of a Sequestration“.
The NIH continues to operate under a Continuing Resolution as described in NOT-OD-13-002, and therefore all non-competing continuation awards are currently being funded at a level below that indicated on the most recent Notice of Award (generally up to 90% of the previously committed level). Final levels of FY 2013 funding may be reduced by a sequestration. Despite the potential for reduced funding, the NIH remains committed to our mission to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.
Should a sequestration occur, NIH likely will reduce the final FY 2013 funding levels of non-competing continuation grants and expects to make fewer competing awards to allow the agency to meet the available budget allocation. Although each NIH Institute and Center (IC) will assess allocations within their portfolio to maximize the scientific impact, non-competing continuation awards that have already been made may be restored above the current level as described in NOT-OD-13-002 but likely will not reach the full FY 2013 commitment level described in the Notice of Award. Finally, in the event of a sequestration, NIH ICs will announce their respective approaches to meeting the new budget level.
Noncompeting renewal cuts should stay below 25% due to NIH fiscal policy, though there was word of a Type 5 taking a 50% hit, which seems exceptional. Each IC will be able to take its own approach to applying the cuts.
Now, given the timing, this would actually amount to a ~10% cut (~$1.6B distributed proportionately among the ICs). After the NIH takes out the cost of administrative and intramural costs for the remainder of FY13 (which ends Sept 30th), the slice of the pie for extramural funding would dwindle further, so paylines for FY13 would remain conservative following sequestration.
Congress also has a March 27 deadline for the continuing resolution that is currently funding the federal government. They probably won’t pass appropriation bills or an omnibus budget bill by the end of March, and while I assume an extension of the CR would maintain FY12 funding levels, it doesn’t have to, so the NIH may continue to face uncertainty with regard to its FY13 appropriation. Alternatively, Congress could scramble to pass a CR that restores some of the sequestered funding (ditto for the final FY13 appropriation). In that case, NIH would likely be on the receiving end, since there is generally bipartisan support for living longer, healthier lives.
Of course, even once the sequestration-CR-FY13 appropriation smack down is over, we still have the debt ceiling to deal with by May, at which point any long-term implications on future FYs would become more clear.
And guess what: next year starts now, too. President Obama will present his proposal for the FY14 budget in February (the applications you are submitting now will be funded in FY14). Following CBO review of the Administration’s plan, the House & Senate will present their own FY14 budget resolutions in April. Sequestration also affects the FY14 budget, so we’ll have to see how that is taken into consideration, especially amidst the debt ceiling wrangling.
What to do? Too few Representatives signed a bipartisan letter to the party leadership in support of preserving the NIH from budget cuts, so we can keep reminding our elected officials of the economic benefit and importance to society of biomedical research in their state and districts. You can find the contact information for your House representative through a zip code search and your Senators by state.
Otherwise, sit tight on contacting your PO for updates until April – they do not have secret information about paylines/paylists or fiscal policy at their ICs. Neither do their bosses. This is a stressful time for everyone in Bethesda, so hang loose, try not to refresh your eRA Commons account more than every 10 minutes, and monitor the headlines for white smoke coming out of the Capitol.