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From This Week’s CR into FY 19: More Alliance Priorities

December 22, 2017

Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown by adopting a third Continuing Resolution that extends funding of federal programs from December 22 until January 19. Depending on your viewpoint, this can be seen as “crisis averted” or “kicking the can down the road.”

With a CR in place, the FDA — along with other government agencies — will be able to continue operations for another 4 weeks, making a total of 14 weeks of CR funding since October 1. However, it is an illusion to suggest that a CR fully supports the agency. Even a short-term CR works to FDA’s disadvantage: long-term planning is disrupted, hiring with BA monies is risky, and new non-emergency projects (depending on how defined) may be delayed because they are not “continued” from FY 17.

Further, the status quo is not being fully maintained under the CR. Rather than providing funding at the FY 17 level, the original CR — extended by the current CR — actually calls for spending at a level that is 0.6791 percent less. The reduction will cost FDA about $5 million in BA funding (rough estimate). This is an unpleasant surprise for an agency that can ill-afford to have its budget cut, even by a small amount. It is uncertain whether the reduction will be continued in the final appropriations bills or restored.

Summing this all up, the CR serves a larger governmental function. However, FDA would be far better off if the Ag/FDA appropriations bill — either freestanding or as part of the “mega-bus” appropriations bill — becomes law as soon as possible.

As we move into 2018, this means that our first challenge will come early: preserving FDA’s current year funding. Assuming that is resolved by January 22 — far from a certainty — then we will be quickly into the FY 19 appropriations cycle.

The formal start of FY 19 is the President’s State of the Union message, to be delivered on January 30. About 10 days later, OMB will release the full version of the President’s budget request. Typically, the HHS summary is 100 pages and the detailed version of the FDA request is likely to be close to 300 pages. We will be providing Alliance members with summaries of key parts of the FDA request, as well as respond to member’s questions.

We can’t be certain what we will face in the President’s FY 19 request: cuts in FDA’s budget; revival of the Administration’s proposal to raise user fees and reduce BA appropriations; some combination of the two; or something that we haven’t even thought of yet. Regardless, we are already planning for 3 days of Hill meetings in February, more meetings during March and April, and our annual Alliance Hill day on April 25. To make these a success, we will need Alliance members to participate — explaining to Members of Congress why a well-funded FDA is essential.

Throughout our efforts, we will be emphasizing to policymakers that consumers and patients are the true beneficiaries of FDA’s work and that appropriated funds are needed to reflect that.

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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