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A Pause to Give Thanks … Then on to FY 13

November 18, 2011

As advocates for the FDA, we definitely have something to be thankful for. House-Senate conferees announced their decisions on HR 2112 on Monday night. The result is that FDA will receive a $50 million increase over FY 11. Since the legislation includes the continuing resolution necessary to fund most of the government through December 16, we can be certain that the President will receive and sign the legislation before midnight tonight.

In light of some recent years where FDA received sizable increases, a $50 million increase may not seem like much. But we faced (and survived) a $285 million cut that had passed the House. Further, FDA was one of only a handful of programs in the Agriculture/FDA appropriations bill cluster that received any increase. We applaud the Senate for proposing a $50 million increase for FDA … and we are grateful to the House for accepting this number rather than insisting on cuts.

Most of the rest of the federal government will be funded under a continuing resolution. This will extend through at least December 16 and may linger into the new year. So, not only are we thankful for FDA’s increased funding, but we are also blessed to be out from under the draining and often damaging uncertainty of a continuing resolution. For the first time in several years, FDA will know how much it has to spend at a time early enough in the fiscal year to be able to plan properly.

Despite this closure, neither FDA nor its advocates actually get a break from the appropriations cycle. Right now, FDA and HHS are on the tail end of the cycle that will lead to the President’s FY 13 Budget Request, which is unveiled in general terms in the State of the Union address (usually in the third week in January) and then released by OMB in detailed form (usually in early February, about two weeks after the State of the Union).

The Alliance has been working on FY 13 since summertime, scheduling meetings with FDA, HHS and OMB to encourage development of an appropriations request for FDA that is commensurate with its growing responsibilities in FY 13. It is a one-way street: we lay out the case for more funds … but they do not tell us what numbers they are considering. The process of putting together the President’s Budget Request has been described to me as “non-public and non-transparent,” which is pretty much the case.

At the end of next week, OMB will provide HHS and FDA with a “passback,” the number recommended for inclusion in the President’s FY 13 budget request based on discussions between the department and OMB. HHS will have one last opportunity in early December to appeal the passback number, by arguing that more monies are needed for specific programs. We have informally heard that FDA continues to be a priority in the Secretary’s request to OMB.

By roughly the third week in December, the President’s FY 13 request will be locked in … even though the numbers won’t be announced until early February. Very occasionally, the locked down budget gets further changes, but only in response to disasters, dire circumstances, or some particular initiatives that the President decides he wants to highlight in the State of the Union address.

As we head into Thanksgiving week, the Alliance is thankful for Congressional support for FDA and we are thankful for the commitment each of our Alliance members has made to supporting the FDA’s cause. Have a great Thanksgiving day!

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

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