Director's Office Reorganizing to Better Support NCI
With budgets declining in 2005, 2006, and now, apparently, in 2007, there has been an absolutely essential NCI-wide effort to downsize. This process has, of course, affected our extramural grantees, but every effort has been made - and continues to be made - toward downsizing the infrastructure that supports the activities of the Institute, as well. For example, efforts are underway to improve work efficiency, to ensure that we are spending every infrastructure support dollar wisely, and to streamline how specific NCI offices work together as a team, so that we can continue to respond to changing needs, both within and outside the Institute. We recognize that the realities of a decreasing annual appropriation, the increasing demands of an expanding extramural research community, and the changes at NIH resulting from the recent passage of the NIH reauthorization bill require immediate action.
The Office of the Director (OD) is the home of almost all of NCI's support structure and, therefore, has been the subject of much of our reviewing and planning over the past 6 months. Using the recommendations of the Executive Committee (EC) based upon a series of staff presentations and detailed personnel and budget reviews, we have been working through a reorganization of the OD, with the ultimate goal of enhancing how it supports NCI - and doing so at significant cost savings.
With this reorganization, we have made considerable progress toward streamlining the organizational structure and building on the synergies that exist between parts of OD that already work closely together. Although the reorganization is not entirely finalized, there are a number of important changes that the EC has formally approved.
One important change is to broaden the role of the deputy director for management (executive officer) to serve as a chief operating executive for NCI. The executive officer, who will report directly to the NCI director and sit on the EC, will provide leadership on many day-to-day operational matters.
A number of offices will report to the executive officer, including those related to budget, financial, and planning issues, along with the offices of human resources and workforce development.
In addition, the newly created Office of Communications and Education - a merger of the Office of Communications and the Office of Education and Special Initiatives - will report to the executive officer. The decision to bring together these two offices came at the recommendation of a special EC subcommittee that spent the summer reviewing NCI's communication and education programs.
Another key change relates to the Director's Consumer Liaison Group (DCLG) and Consumer Advocates in Research and Related Activities, both of which will be more closely aligned with OD. This is particularly important for DCLG, whose mission will be redefined to include activities related to cancer care delivery, disparities issues, and patient outreach.
Although some centers and offices that previously reported to OD will now report to the executive officer, a number of OD "direct reports" are being retained, including, of course, all of the intramural and extramural divisions, along with the Center for Bioinformatics; the Center for Scientific Strategic Initiatives; the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities; the Office of Centers, Training, and Resources; and NCI-Frederick.
While this restructuring is not complete, we have made great progress. I am confident that, with input from the Institute leadership and staff, we are creating a logical organizational structure that provides the best possible support for the entire Institute.
One final comment: As many NCI Cancer Bulletin readers may be aware, all of the agencies under the Department of Health and Human Services are operating under a "continuing resolution" (CR) until February 15. Until then, NCI is operating at fiscal year 2006 budgetary levels. Reading the news, as all of you do, you already are aware that we are uncertain what will occur regarding the CR in early 2007. We are obviously monitoring this closely and will continue to keep the cancer community apprised of budgetary matters as they happen.
As the New Year dawns, with all its challenges, I remain excited about the future for NCI and the tremendous opportunities that science is bringing forward each and every day: opportunities that very clearly can - and will - be translated into improved diagnosis and treatment for patients with cancer. I am committed to supporting the highest quality research, to finding solutions to our challenges and, most of all, finding innovative ways for maintaining our momentum. I believe that we will not only be able to sustain the progress that is evident by a continued decline in cancer mortality rates, but to accelerate the decline in 2007.
Dr. John E. Niederhuber