Sequestration’s Damaging Impact on Health and Science Research

While Republicans are back home talking about their efforts to replace the sequester, wait, no – explaining why they have refused to consider legislation to replace the entire sequester, the Huffington Post detailed today the destructive effects of these across-the-board cuts on critical health and science research that could save lives.  Some key excerpts:

Top officials at academic and medical institutions have grown convinced that years of stagnant budgets and recent cuts have ushered in the dark ages of science in America. ‘It is like a slowly growing cancer,’ Steven Warren, vice chancellor for research at the University of Kansas said of sequestration at a recent gathering of academic officials in Washington, D.C. ‘It's going to do a lot of destruction over time.’”

In 2013 alone, NIH, the primary federal spigot for projects impacting human health, will be forced to cut $1.7 billion from its budget. Government agencies across the board are making similar reductions in their research budgets as well. The length of some grants have been shortened, while others have decreased in size and still others have been eliminated altogether.

“In January 2002, President George W. Bush unveiled a five-year budget proposal that called for a doubling in NIH funding. It was an unprecedented show of commitment to the scientific community that promised 36,000 new projects and major breakthroughs in medical research. In many ways, it proved to be a high-water mark…. But under sequestration, many of those gains were lost.

“But beyond that, they [scientists and academic officials interviewed] shuddered at the damage being done to the field at large. Yes, they conceded, the NIH's budget remains large at $29 billion. But without more investment, the nation's role as an international leader in scientific research is at risk. Moreover, the money being cut now will have lasting damage, both economic and medical, as cures to diseases are left undiscovered and treatments left unearthed.”

It's not just projects receiving NIH grants that have been set back by sequestration. Various other government agencies have seen their research budgets slashed as well. Early estimates from the American Association for the Advancement of Science projected that $9.3 billion would be cut from research and development projects in 2013 alone, including $6.4 billion from the Department of Defense.”

Republicans like to talk about their support for NIH and medical research – well, they’ve got a chance to show that support by working with Democrats to replace the sequester and end these impacts that are putting life-saving research at risk. Perhaps Republicans will reevaluate their strategy when they return from the August district work period and get to work.