NCI Budget Update
Last Tuesday I gave members of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) an update on the status of NCI's budget that I'd like to share with the entire cancer community.
Currently, NCI - like many other government agencies supported by the discretionary part of the Federal Budget - is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) which expires on February 15. A CR means current NCI operations are running at fiscal year (FY) 2006 budget levels. The House of Representatives has already passed a revised CR that would cover the remainder of FY2007. That bill will now be considered by the Senate and Congress is expected to pass a new CR under which the government will operate for the remainder of FY2007.
We have been working since last spring to prepare for the FY2007 budget, using the President's 2007 budget proposal, which called for a $40 million, or 0.8 percent, decrease over NCI's 2006 appropriation. This 0.8 percent decrease, plus the percentage decrease which results from inflation, has forced NCI to target reductions of at least an average of 5 percent. The NCI Executive Committee (EC) conducted an exhaustive portfolio review to identify areas where costs could be reduced or programs phased out, with the goals of accounting for the decreased revenues and creating a pool of money that could be redeployed to new and existing high-priority initiatives or projects.
The EC also completed a comprehensive review of the Office of the Director, which includes almost all of NCI's support structure, with a view to downsizing those programs, as well.
The EC's efforts established a redeployment pool of $60 million. The EC has, by consensus, identified the highest priority programs to receive these redeployment dollars.
However, if there is a CR for the entire FY2007, there may be substantial changes to the budget. For example, the House-passed CR has some important differences from the CR under which we are currently operating, namely, a $620 million increase for NIH over FY2006. It also includes language directing NCI and other Institutes and Centers (ICs) to retain funds that otherwise would have been directed to the NIH Roadmap and elsewhere, and covers part of the cost-of-living increases for federal employees. It further directs the ICs to spend half of the retained funds on competing Research Projects Grants (RPGs) and first-time applicants, setting targets for each.
If these changes are maintained in the bill passed by the Senate, it would provide a slight increase in NCI's 2007 budget over 2006, which would increase the payline and the number of competing RPGs we could fund. Thus, it is possible that NCI will fund approximately 1,310 competing grants in FY2007, an increase of 30 awards. Further details will be provided once the FY2007 budget has been enacted.
NCI's FY2006 Roadmap contribution was to be $43 million. This, plus the approximately $3 million previously tapped for other uses and the added cost-of-living adjustment dollars, would mean that NCI could have as much as $46 million in FY2007. While we needed $200 million just to stay even, these additional funds will help to address some critical needs.
Even though the FY2007 budget is not final, last week the President's FY2008 budget was announced. The NIH President's Budget (PB) request is $28.85 billion, which represents an increase. However, the FY2008 PB request for NCI is $4.78 billion, which is 0.2 percent less than all of the FY2007 budget scenarios. NCI is one of four ICs receiving a decrease and once again we will need to plan for budget reductions for FY2008.
The next step in the process is the House Appropriations Hearing. I am scheduled to accompany Dr. Zerhouni when he testifies on March 6.
As I told the NCAB, there is no question that we have more opportunities than resources to fund them. We are committed to appropriately managing the resources we have and to leveraging those resources by working with partners in the public and private sector.
NCI will continue to make its funding decisions based on science, not target measures of success rates or paylines. Where there is good science, we will do everything we can to support it and ensure the continued progress the cancer community and the American people have come to expect. Nothing less would be acceptable.
Dr. John E. Niederhuber