Funding for Strategic Initiatives Highlights Research Priorities
Final details about allocations under the Fiscal Year 2004 National Cancer Institute (NCI) budget have been completed, providing an important snapshot of some of the top research priorities for NCI and the cancer community over the next few years. Included among these details is how the five percent pool drawn from each NCI division's 2004 base budgets will be used. Speaking at last week's joint meeting of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors and Board of Scientific Counselors, NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach provided a breakdown of how that pool of funds would be redeployed.
As reported previously (NCI Cancer Bulletin, February 3), NCI received a slight increase in funding for the 2004 fiscal year. However, because of mandated federal salary increases, an increasing number of noncompeting grants, and assessments to support the NIH Roadmap Initiative and other centralized activities, NCI is effectively operating with $2.7 million less than the 2003 budget. As a result, NCI division directors were asked to reduce their base 2004 budgets by five percent to create a pool of dollars to fund new initiatives. Those funds yielded a pool of approximately $75 million.
Of that $75 million, Dr. von Eschenbach explained, approximately $54.5 million has been redeployed "to address the strategic initiatives that we as an entire institute - division heads, center directors, the deputies, the senior leadership - had all agreed were the highest priorities for the year." These strategic initiatives and redeployed amounts are as follows:
NCI is engaged in a number of important and worthy initiatives, Dr. von Eschenbach noted, all of which require resources. "[This is] a significant challenge for us," he said, but "not because the resources have shrunk. In fact, the opposite is true. There has never been as much money invested in biomedical and cancer research as there is today. The problem is that the opportunities are even greater."
The challenge in redeploying resources, he added, "is being as strategic about the things we say 'no' to as we are strategic about the things we say 'yes' to... So we want to be making good choices on both sides of that portfolio."
As for the remainder of the $75 million pool, $15 million was put into a reserve to "be used for unexpected issues that come up between now and the close of the fiscal year," Dr. von Eschenbach explained. The final $5.5 million was reallocated to operational units to cover a variety of areas, including the initiation or expansion of division-specific program activities or projects.
"We're trying to be good stewards of the precious resources that we have," Dr. von Eschenbach stressed. "We're doing everything we possibly can to support young investigators and new investigators coming into the field.