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NIH budget approved at $28 billion: Concerns over FY 2005 funding
  Gastroenterology, March 2004, by Les Lang
With a nod from the Senate on January 22, Congress approved the FY 2004 budget bill. For the fiscal year that started October 1, 2003, the bill gives the NIH $27.98 billion, a 3.7% increase of $1 billion over last year's appropriation and $318.6 million more than the White House had requested. The National Science Foundation receives $5.6 billion, an increase of $300 million over last year and $130 million more than requested by the White House. These amounts are before an across-the-board 0.59% budget cut imposed on most programs and projects. After the reduction, NIH's net increase is around $800 million. Overcoming objections, the Senate passed the budget bill 65--28. The House had approved the measure in December.
Meanwhile, the FY 2005 budget is already under consideration. The White House will submit its budget request for FY 2005 to Congress in early February. Expectations are that the administration will request a 2.5% increase for NIH for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2004. "This level of funding will immediately begin to erode the foundation for discovery provided by the recent doubling of the NIH budget, "states the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in its budget recommendations for FY 2005."
A 2.5% increase would result in 600 fewer research grants being funded next year than the 10,400 projected for FY 2004, according to FASEB. Instead, FASEB recommends that the NIH should receive a 10% budget increase over the pending FY 2004 number, bringing its FY 2005 appropriations to $30.6 billion, FASEB states in its annual budget recommendation.
In a related development, an alliance of health funding advocates is urging a 12% budget increase in discretionary spending for Public Health Service programs in FY 2005. According to the Campaign to Increase Function 550, a coalition including the American Cancer Society, the Coalition for Health Funding, the American Heart Association, and nearly 40 other organizations, more than $330 million stands to be cut from public health programs in FY 2004. Function 550 in the federal budget includes most direct health care services programs. "Underfunding any of these programs seriously compromises our nation's health defenses," the coalition states in a letter to the White House and Congress. "Saving and safeguarding American lives through prevention, treatment, and cure of diseases only will be achieved by making sufficient and sustained funding of public health programs a national priority."
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