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IN FY2009 DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS, PEER REVIEWED VISION RESEARCH IS LISTED FOR FIRST TIME AS A SEPARATE LINE ITEM FUNDED AT $4 MILLION

Legislative Update
October 1, 2008

For the first time, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Defense appropriations include a separate line item for Peer Reviewed Vision Research, which is funded at $4 million. The final FY2009 Defense, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security spending bills were included in the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by Congress and signed by the President on September 30, which funded the remaining government operations at the FY2008 level. NAEVR advocated for this dedicated funding, having educated House and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee members about the devastating eye injuries experienced by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Previously, vision was one of 21 areas of research that could compete for a pool of $50 million of funds in the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). In FY2009, vision researchers will compete against vision researchers for $4 million administered by the Army to target the various causes, effects, and treatment of visual injury resulting from exposures. A program announcement will likely issue in early 2009.

Although vision researchers have competed successfully in the PRMRP in the past-for example, in FY2006, the first year of eligibility, vision researchers were awarded $6.3 million-the competition has increased significantly, primarily due to a change in the structure of the award mechanisms. The vision community is currently awaiting the announcement of FY2008 awards, proposals for which were due in July 2008. Recently, DOD announced additional FY2008 funding available through the Deployment Related Medical Research Program (DRMRP), a $92 million pool of funds created by the mid-year Supplemental Appropriations Act. The DRMRP has specifically requested grant proposals in the vision space, including visual/ocular trauma treatment and rehabilitation, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and wound infection.

This unprecedented listing is a significant recognition by Congress about the need for defense-related vision research. With uncertain future NIH/NEI funding, this listing represents an important, dedicated vision funding source in FY2009. As a result of the new earmark transparency policy, NAEVR has estimated that FY2009 Defense appropriations fund about $20 million in vision-related research throughout the country.