Congress recently passed funding legislation (Labor-HHS-Education bill) which would have increased funding to the NIH by 2 billion dollars for a 2008 total of 30 billion dollars. However, President Bush vetoed the legislation citing his concern that there was too much “pork barrel” funding in the bill. He did not specify what specific parts of the bill were problematic. The bill included many items, not just funding for the NIH.
Last Thursday Congress was unsuccessful in over turning President Bush’s veto, needing a two-thirds vote to have been successful.
NIH Director Elias Zerhouni stated at a recent conference that the lack of adequate funding would threaten medical breakthroughs. The NIH has supported most of the basic science research that is performed in the world. Without this funding for basic science, American labs and research will slow down.
Not only will this directly affect our basic understanding of disease and the eventual development of treatments, but also it will discourage new scientists and researchers from entering the industry. As I wrote earlier, ( 7-15-07 & 8-28-07) the main concern on the minds of the researchers at the recent DOD funding meetings was the loss of funding. They told me that new labs were not being opened, but instead existing, productive labs were actually closing. New researchers, who require years of training were leaving the field or going to Europe where they are able to obtain funding. The researchers where all concerned about losing an entire generation of young American researchers, which would take many years to replace.
Despite the fact that the NIH has experienced years of flat funding, most experts now assume that once again the NIH budget will be flat for the upcoming year. Flat funding means less real dollars for the NIH. The bottom line for the United States- less research, less innovation, less training, less developments, less labs and more stagnation of our health!
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW