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The President’s Budget Request: Is 6% Enough for FDA?

The President’s FY 11 budget request for FDA includes a $146 million increase in appropriated (non-user fee) funding. This is about 6% of the $2.36 billion appropriation that FDA received in FY 10. With the President’s tough talk about deficit reduction, anything above a freeze should be considered good. Why was the Alliance for a Stronger FDA disappointed?

Or to be more precise, the Alliance (www.StrengthenFDA.org) appreciated that FDA got more than most agencies, but felt that an inflation level increase was insufficient for FDA. The Alliance pointed out that the increase will not cover the ever-growing demands on the agency or strengthen the agency’s capacity to fulfill its mission. They added: three good appropriations cycles for FDA (FY 08 to FY 10) have not undone more than a decade of budgetary neglect.

Of the $146 million increase for the agency’s appropriated budget, CFSAN would get $60 million, about an 8% increase. This is a little more than an inflationary increase and foods programs will be able to grow marginally in FY 11. This is progress…though not nearly what is needed to meet the continued challenge of keeping foods safe and the increasing complexity and international scope of the food supply chain.

Far less was provided for medical products. Drugs and biologics received a combined $28 million increase in the President’s request (about 4%). Devices received an $11 million increase (less than 4%), which does not cover the cost of pay increases. Other items that will increase this year (rent, IT, training, and travel) will need to come from existing program dollars. 

There is near-universal acceptance that the federal budget needs to be trimmed. Few domestic agencies did better in the President’s request than FDA.

But there are differences in the needs of federal agencies. FDA’s budget is almost entirely people costs. Salaries are more than 60% of the agency’s budget. When you add in benefits, rent, IT services, travel, training, etc., 80% of the budget is devoted to people and the support they need to do their jobs.

If the FDA’s appropriated budget does not grow by at least inflation each year, then staff levels decrease. This is what happened in most years from 1994 to 2007.

For example, after 9/11 the agency received significant new monies to hire inspectors to decrease the risks of agro- and bio-terror. Within 5 years, this increase in the FDA field force had disappeared, due to inflation, attrition and a lack of supportive funding. There is nothing hypothetical about the consequences of underfunding FDA.

Undoubtedly, FDA will find ways to be more efficient in FY 11, which will relieve a little of the pressure of doing more without new money. However, the amount to be gained in this manner is not large.

In contrast, there are plenty of areas for additional investment. FDA is operating a 1990’s IT system, requiring it to work with databases that are incomplete and do not provide sophisticated support for decision making. Training the FDA workforce is another priority for additional funding.

FDA is still very much in the catch-up mode from past underfunding. Six percent is not enough!


For purposes of disclosure, I am one of the founders of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA and serve as deputy executive director. FDA Matters is not affiliated in any way with the Alliance.

Chart provided by the Alliance for a Stronger FDA:

President Obama’s FY 11 Request for the FDA

Compared to the Alliance for a Stronger FDA’s FY 11 Request

Budget Authority Appropriations (does not include user fees)


Note: budget authority only, by center

FY 08 Actual (December 2007)

FY 09 Final (March 2009)

FY 10 Final (October 2009)


FY 11

Alliance Request 

FY 11 President’s Request 



$   510 million

$   649 million

$   784 million


$ 955 million 

$ 848 million 

Human Drugs

$   353 million

$   413 million

$    465 million


$ 580 million 

$ 484 million 


$   155 million

$   183 million

$    206 million


$ 255 million 

$ 215 million

Animal Drugs/Feed

$     97 million

$   116 million

$    135 million


$ 165 million 

$ 141 million

Devices & Radiological Health

$   238 million

$   280 million

$    315 million


$ 385 million 

$ 326 million 

Natl. Ctr. For Toxicological Research

$    44 million

$    52 million

$    59 million


$ 72 million 

$ 61 million 

HQ, Office of Commissioner and Other

$    97 million

$   121 million

$    144 million


$ 183 million 

$ 162 million 

Rent & Facilities Cost

$  220 million

$   223 million

$    237 million


$ 250 million 

$ 259 million 

SUBTOTAL, Salaries and Expenses

$ 1.714 billion

(+$145M over FY 07)

$ 2.039 billion

(+$325M over FY 08)

$ 2.346 billion

(+$307M over FY 09)


$ 2.845 billion

$2.496 billion

Building and Facilities Repair 

$ 8 million 

$ 16 million 

$ 16 million 


$ 12 million 

$ 12 million 

TOTAL, ALL Budget Authority Appropriations

(no user fees) 

$1.722 billion


$2.055 billion


$ 2.362 billion



$ 2.857 billion

(Proposes + $495M over FY10)

$2.508 billion

(Proposes $146 million over FY 10)

Because OMB includes new and proposed user fees in their totals, these numbers vary considerably from those being discussed by the Administration and reported by many sources. Notably, the President’s request includes user fees being collected for the new tobacco center at FDA, monies that exactly match the cost of new responsibilities added this year.


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