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President’s Budget Request for FY13 Delayed by 1 Week

January 27, 2012

It was announced this week that the President’s budget request for FY 13 will be released on Monday, February 13, a week later than previously announced. The shape of the looming appropriations fight is already becoming clearer: the State of the Union (SOTU) has been presented, the budget ceilings for FY 13 have already been set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, and the Department of Defense is in high gear explaining where they are going to find the substantial “savings” required of the Pentagon.

The details released by OMB on February 13 are important, but the plot and major themes are already developing quickly.

In the next couple of columns, while awaiting release of the President’s Budget Request, we are going to look at the various hurdles that FDA’s budget must pass over before it becomes law. The first is the limitation on aggregate discretionary spending for FY 13, as imposed by the House and Senate budget resolutions.

Instead of the usual process by which the ceilings are set each year — and which became a major cause of delay last year in moving the appropriations process forward — the Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). This law sets ceilings for FY 12 through FY 21, although there are some special facets of how the ceilings are allocated during the first two years. Note that while the aggregate amounts are set by the BCA, the budget committees are still likely to act to allocate those monies among the various functions of government. For example, all public health programs are under function 550.

For FY 12, the budget ceiling set by the BCA was divided between security and non-security programs, whereas for FY 13, the budget ceiling will be divided between defense and non-defense programs. While the overall amount (ceiling) available for non-defense is higher in FY 13, it needs to cover parts of homeland security, military construction, and state foreign operations that were paired with DOD in FY 12. Said another way, the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee (where FDA resides) is bidding for its share of funds from a slightly larger pot in FY 13, but with significantly more competition than in FY 12. (In FY 14 and thereafter, there is only one ceiling with no distinction between defense and non-defense.)

After various adjustments are made, we are told it is possible that the Agriculture subcommittee will have about the same amount to spend in FY 13 as FY 12. If so, the specific programs and agencies funded through the Agriculture appropriations bill would be funded in FY 13, on average, at about the same or slightly less than they were in FY 12, without any upward adjustment for new responsibilities, larger demands on existing responsibilities and inflation.  

Our goal for FDA, of course, will be to gain an above average increase as a base number and have additional dollars allocated for new responsibilities and the larger demands being placed on FDA.

For FDA to do better than average, it means the subcommittee will need to eliminate or sharply reduce other programs in their jurisdiction … or, at a minimum, provide almost all other programs with below-average increases. This will be a tough fight … and will rely in large part on our ability to make the case that: FDA’s importance and growing responsibilities makes it a necessary exception to budget-cutting.

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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