In a notice posted February 1st, NOT-OD-13-043, NIH noted that should sequestration take effect, they “likely will reduce the final FY 2013 funding levels of non-competing continuation grants” and went on to say that fewer competing awards will likely be made in order to meet the necessary budget limitations. Each Institute or Center will announce their specific approach to meeting the new budget levels in the event of a sequestration.
The effects of sequestration, should it come to pass, are layered on top of the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) under which NIH is currently operating. Under the current CR, continuation awards are generally being funded at levels up to 90% of the previously committed level. These levels may be further reduced in the event of sequestration.
In her letter to the Senate appropriations committee, Kathleen Sebelius, said:
Cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) due to sequestration would delay progress on the prevention of debilitating chronic conditions that are also costly to society and on the development of more effective treatments for common and rare diseases affecting millions of Americans. In general, NIH grant funding within states, including Maryland, will likely be reduced due to both reductions to existing grants and fewer new grants. We expect that some existing research projects could be difficult to pursue at reduced levels and some new research could be postponed as NIH would make hundreds fewer awards. Actual funding reductions will depend on the final mix of projects chosen to be supported by each Institute and Center within available resources. With each research award supporting up to seven research positions, several thousand research positions across the nation could be eliminated.
These impacts on NIH are only a subset of the impacts on the Department of Health and Human Services and represent only a portion of the impact on research in general. The National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, said that sequestrations would “cause a reduction of nearly 1,000 research grants, impacting nearly 12,000 people supported by NSF.” Similarly, NASA anticipates about a 5% reduction in new awards if sequestration goes into effect.
Polls confirm that we would all like to see wasteful government spending reduced or eliminated and deficits decline. Most Americans (54%) believe that the spending cuts looming under sequestration, including the painful research cuts mentioned previously, should be delayed (Bloomberg News Poll). The poll also documented that 64% of Americans oppose a partial government shutdown of non-critical services.
It is now or never for each of us to contact our congressional representatives and tell them what we think about sequestration in particular and perhaps more broadly about putting America back to work and investing in the future through support for research and education. These are traditionally bipartisan goals but the current toxic climate in Washington, DC politics makes it difficult to see how we move forward. Contact your Senators and Representatives and let them know your feelings on these matters!