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Deficit Hawks in the New Congress Threaten FDA Funding

FDA Matters doesn’t know who the majority party in the House and Senate will be next year. There seem to be a very large number of races where incumbents are vulnerable or are too close to call. The fate of FDA will be driven by the post-election tone of Congress, more than by the fates of individual Members or who holds the majority.

Looking around the country, nearly every candidate is running “against Washington.” The major themes–among Democrats and Republicans alike–are the need to create more jobs and the need to reduce the burgeoning government deficit and the national debt.

Congress may be stymied in the jobs area, since it is unclear how to intentionally create more jobs in our current economic situation. In any case, Congress will have to work through divergent views about how to approach this task. If creating jobs proves difficult, then Members will be working extra hard to show the electorate that the deficit is being tamed.

This year’s first continuing resolution only provides FY 11 funds for the federal government through December 3. It has to be seen for what it is: a placeholder for more severe cutting that might occur later this year or early in the next Congress. Regardless of the outcome of the election, there will be a working majority of Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate in 2011 that are deeply committed to substantial deficit reduction.

While it may surprise many, President Obama has a strong commitment to deficit reduction and will be working with newly-empowered deficit-cutters in Congress.

The White House clearly sees what the campaigns see: nearly across the political spectrum, voters want the federal government to spend less…or at least dramatically slow the increases that are already built into budget projections. The White House is likely to disagree with Congress on some budget items, but the focus will be on very specific items or on how far and fast to cut. Philsophically, President Obama sees himself as a deficit-cutter.

None of this sounds good for FDA. And it isn’t. The Alliance for a Stronger FDA anticipated a year ago that future increases would be harder to get for FDA. Throughout 2010, the Alliance has been building on the theme that FDA needs to be an exception to whatever budget cutting occurs.

The Alliance’s focus has been to show how a well-resourced FDA creates jobs in the American economy, which is a particularly potent argument with nearly 10% unemployment. The Alliance has also focused on the extraordinary demands being placed on the agency, be it growing responsibilities for medical product reviews and food imports or unexpected items such as pandemic flu and contaminated eggs.

The case for FDA “exceptionalism” has been effective in at least two recent years when most of the federal government received flat funding and FDA received an increase. No one knows if it will work in 2011 and 2012. FDA Matters does know that the agency will find it hard to function if it is caught in an “across the board” 5% or 10% cut in domestic discretionary spending.

It could be even worse. At least one proposal being discussed would roll the Federal Government’s funding levels back to the FY 08 base. For FDA, this would mean reducing funding from $2.345 billion in FY 10 to the FY 08 level of $1.713 billion. A quarter of the agency might disappear.

Can I imagine things going that badly? Frankly, no. But so many things happen that we don’t believe possible that I worry for the agency and hope readers will lend their voices to those advocating for increased FDA funding.


For purposes of disclosure: I am a founder and Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. It is the only multi-stakeholder group devoted to education and advocacy to increase the appropriated resources available to FDA. Members include patient and consumer groups, professional societies, research advocacy groups, associations, companies, consultants and individuals. For more information about the Alliance, go to www.StrengthenFDA.org or write to me at sgrossman@StrengthenFDA.org.

FDA Funding for FY 11: Back to the Future
October 3rd, 2010

Not so long ago, FDA appropriations barely budged from year-to-year. A good year was a 2% to 3% increase. This changed four years ago, after the formation of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. The agency’s case for more resources—always a good one—finally had an independent, multi-stakeholder voice. Champions on the Hill and in the Executive Branch emerged.

The agency appropriation has grown 50% in the last three fiscal years. So far, FY 11 looks more like the past than it does the last few years. FDA Matters believes that the consequences could be severe. Read the rest of this entry »

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