President Issues FY2016 Budget Request with NIH and NEI Increases

President Issues FY2016 Budget Request with NIH and NEI Increases

Legislative Update
February 2, 2015

On February 2, the President sent a $4 trillion Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 spending plan to Congress. The proposed budget restores the harmful cuts to nondefense discretionary programs by replacing sequestration with a balanced approach to deficit reduction that recognizes that both nondefense and defense programs contribute equally and deserve sequestration relief. As a result, it increases the discretionary budget by $75 billion-$37 billion more to make strategic investments in research, science, public health, education and infrastructure, and $38 billion more to defense programs.

The President requests National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding at $31.3 billion, a $1 billion or 3.3% increase over the FY2015 level of $30.3 billion. NIH estimates that it will support 10,303 new and competing Research Project Grants (RPGs) in FY2016-an increases of 1,227 above the FY2015 estimate—for a total of 35,447 grants. NIH projects its FY2016 Success Rate at 19.3 percent, compared to its FY2015 estimate of 17.2 percent.

The FY2016 budget would fund the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative at $135 million, or a $70 million increase over the FY2015 level. [Funded initially at $46 million in FY2014, vision researchers received $22 million in awards in the first funding cycle). As announced on January 20 during the President’s State of the Union Address, NIH plans to spend $200 million in FY2016 on the Precision Medicine Initiative, to focus on developing treatments tailored to the individual characteristics of each patient.

FY2016 National Eye Institute’s (NEI) funding would be $695.2 million, an increase of $18.4 million over its FY2015 operational budget of $676.7 million, or a 2.7 percent increase—but still $7 million below NEI’s FY2012 pre-sequester funding level $702 million. Unlike in FY2014 and FY2015, where NEI’s appropriation was reduced by $6.9 and 7.4 million to operating nets of $675.6 million and $676.7 million, respectively, due to transfers back to the NIH’s Office of AIDS Research (OAR) as a result of the dissolution of NEI’s Ocular Implications of AIDS clinical trials, the FY2016 budget proposes no such transfer.

Per NEI’s Congressional Justification, it will support a total of 1,095 RPGs in FY2016. Noncompeting RPGs will decrease by 45 awards ($10.9 million), while competing RPGs will increase by 56 awards ($22.5 million). As in the past, 85 percent of NEI’s budget will be spent on Extramural Research, 11 percent on Intramural Research, and 4 percent on administration. NEI will invest $4 million in the BRAIN Initiative FY2016 as compared to $1 million in FY2015.

Since the President’s budget exceeds the caps mandated by the Budget Control Act by proposing a new mix of cuts and taxes, it will face intense scrutiny by the Republican-controlled House and Senate as the appropriations begins on Capitol Hill.

Although the President’s support for biomedical research in his budget request is encouraging, NAEVR is urging FY2016 NIH funding of at least $32 billion and the NEI at $730 million. For NIH, this reflects a 5 percent increase for modest growth and biomedical inflation (2.4 percent in FY2016). For NEI, the $730 million level reflects restoration of the remaining sequester cut and a 5 percent increase for modest growth and biomedical inflation.