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House Exceptionalizes FDA for FY 14 … But More Needed

June 7, 2013

For 2 years we have asked for the appropriations process to be returned to its rightful place — one where the committees’ function is to work from an available pot of monies and fund programs based on their perception of the most pressing and worthy public needs. Our argument has been that FDA’s case for better funding is incredibly strong and that appropriators would “exceptionalize” FDA if given the flexibility to do so.

In a way, this actually did happen for FDA in FY 13 through a small BA funding increase plus the addition of $50 million in no-year, supplemental funding. But then the agency lost more than $60 million (from BA appropriations) as part of an across-the-board rescission and $209 million as part of the sequestration ($124 million from BA appropriations and about $85 million from user fees). As a result, all of the net gains in the FY 13 appropriations process were wiped out and the agency has about $200 million less to spend this fiscal year (FY 13) for comparable programs areas than it did in FY 12.

What makes the FY 14 House Ag/FDA mark-up different is that the amount the subcommittee was given is consistent with the House FY 14 budget resolution and the spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The subcommittee is working from a spending level that many of us believe is way too low, but which also would not be subject to a rescission or sequester under existing law.

For FY 14, the House subcommittee needed to find $1.3 billion in cuts to FY 13 programs. Had the subcommittee made the “easy” decision, it could have achieved its spending target by giving every program in the Ag/FDA jurisdiction the same money they received post-sequester. This would have been disastrous for FDA and placed patients, consumers, and industry at risk, but would have represented the agency’s proportional share of cuts.

Instead, under the subcommittee bill, FDA would receive nearly $100 million more in BA funding than the FY 13 post-sequester level and about $24 million more than the enacted level (post-rescission, pre-sequester). FDA appears to be the only discretionary program in the Ag/FDA bill that will receive an increase above the enacted level, while many programs received significant cuts below that level.

Given a chance, the House subcommittee clearly recognized FDA’s needs and exceptionalized the agency. In this context, we must express our appreciation for their clear support for FDA. This starts the FY 14 appropriations process in the right direction, even if the House number is still below the FY 12 base.

At the same time, we have tried to be clear that the Alliance is not satisfied. It will take far more money than the House level for FDA to carry out its mission in FY 14. We will continue to work with the House and re-double our efforts in the Senate where the appropriations committee will be working from a much higher aggregate budget. If we can achieve higher FDA funding levels in the Senate, we will still need the House to concur. We can’t assume the House will do this, but their initial position leaves us guardedly optimistic.

Note: This analysis and commentary is written by Steven Grossman, the Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

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