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Help Us to Deliver Some Specific Messages to Congress

April 7, 2017

The first quarter of the year in Washington has been tumultuous, to say the least. And yet, we are only just beginning the most contentious part of Congress’ annual agenda: establishing budget priorities and allocating the $1 trillion of discretionary funds among the many competing demands. To make it even more interesting and difficult this year, Congress will need to decide on funding for the last 5 months of FY 17, then immediately jump into the President’s FY 18 full budget request that will arrive in May (this is the normal timing in the first year of a new Presidency).

FDA is barely more than a speck in all this: $2.7 billion in budget authority appropriations for an agency performing core functions of government (assuring safe food and safe and effective medical products). If anything, the agency needs more money because its responsibilities continue to grow and its job is larger and harder because of rapid advances in science and technology. However, not only is an increase extremely unlikely, but even the base funding is at extraordinary risk.

As we interpret the President’s initial budget request, it seems like the Administration agrees with us about FDA’s importance. At least for the moment, they are not talking about cutting back FDA’s total funding. This is quite positive for the agency. However, the devil is in the details … and, in this case, the details are not good. The President proposes to increase off-budget medical product user fees by $1 billion per year and, presumably, take a corresponding amount of money away from the on-budget BA appropriations. If Congress does not enact the increased user fees (and they almost certainly will not), then the President’s proposal has the effect of becoming a $1 billion/37% cut in the agency’s BA funding. This is described more fully here, here, here, and here.

When we meet with OMB, our position will be: please don’t put this proposal in the President’s final (May) budget because, while seemingly supportive, it could have a devastating effect on the FDA. When we meet with Congress, our position will be: please restore FDA’s budget authority appropriation to its previous level, recognizing that the Administration did not propose a cut in agency funding.

Cut down to the basics, here are the arguments we hope will be persuasive:

  • FDA’s mission (both food safety and medical products) is a core function of government that benefits every American every day. While there are many valuable federal programs, very few can make this statement.
  • The essential services provided by FDA require science-based decision-making derived from specialized expertise and a well-trained, up-to-date staff. More than 80% of FDA’s budget supports employee costs, so the budget can’t be cut without compromising the staff needed to do the agency’s job.
  • FDA actions produce a favorable cost-benefit, and help to make America more prosperous. FDA-regulated industries have remained world leaders in discovery and innovation in part because of the stability and oversight provided by FDA.

Help us deliver these messages to Congress — both during our upcoming Lobby Day and every time you are communicating with Members and staff on Capitol Hill.

Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA

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