Skip to content

A Heirarchy of Wishes (for FY 15 Appropriations)

September 5, 2014

We all hope that Congress will engage in an orderly process this month as it takes up the Continuing Resolution that will cover the first 10 weeks of the new fiscal year that starts on October 1.

If there were a hierarchy of wishes, the highest tier would be occupied by a full appropriations bill that would fund FDA for the entire year at levels above FY 14. The alternative, a CR, is bad for FDA. The agency’s mission and responsibilities continue to grow, as does the backlog of work from underfunding in prior years. Despite this, money under the CR will be extraordinarily tight (i.e., no growth), many vacancies will have to wait to be filled, and some degree of disruption is inevitable. Worst of all, the uncertainty created by a CR is destructive to the agency’s efforts to plan ahead and to efficiently allocate dollars and employee time.

So, recognizing that any CR is bad for the agency — but inevitable at this point — the next tier down is a CR that is clean of controversy and passes at least a week before the end of the fiscal year. This will allow FDA to plan properly for its work during the first 10 weeks of the new fiscal year and avoid the push-pull of simultaneously planning to work and planning for an orderly shutdown of the agency. This is also the best that Congress can hope for at this moment: a chance to show that they can agree on the need to keep the government running … and that to accomplish that end they are willing to put their disagreements aside.

The next two tiers down are both really bad. If Congress is still debating the CR on September 29 and 30 (“brinksmanship”), the executive branch cannot be expected to be very productive. Even a short-short CR of 48 hours, so that government doesn’t close, is disruptive. Then the worst (and bottom) tier is “government shutdown.” There are many ways to illustrate how bad this would be, but one of my clearest memories from last year’s shutdown is that FDA employees on travel status (e.g., to attend conferences or audit facilities) all had to return to their home base on October 1, regardless of the importance of their mission.

Let’s all hope for an orderly process this month, while preparing (as FDA must) for the possibility that things could still fall apart.

And now, on another matter entirely …

Ladd and I try to be very responsive to our member’s requests to learn more about FDA, the funding process, and the status of the agency budget. During the course of the year, we present at legislative update meetings, Hill Day preparation meetings, board meetings, senior management meetings and the like. We consider this part of our advocacy for FDA.

This week, I had the opportunity to present to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), an Alliance member. The audience was young medical and scientific professionals who will be serving for the next year or two in federal agencies, including a number who will be at FDA as part of the Commissioner’s Fellowship Program. Click here to see a copy of my presentation. Please don’t hesitate to let us know of opportunities to spread the word about FDA’s funding needs.

Note: This week’s Analysis and Commentary was written by Steven Grossman, the deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA

Comments are closed.