President Proposes FY2021 Budget with Deep Cuts to Non-Defense Discretionary Spending

On February 10, the White House released its $4.8 trillion Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget request which increases defense spending while deeply cutting that for domestic programs. The budget proposes a 9 percent, or $9.5 billion, discretionary spending cut to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), down from the $106 billion Congress provided in final FY2020. Reductions in domestic spending include the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In its FY2021 budget, the Administration proposes an NIH program level of $38.69 billion, (with $37.7 billion in discretionary budget authority for the agency), which reflects a $3 billion, or more than a 7 percent cut, below final FY2020 funding of $41.69 billion.

For the National Eye Institute (NEI), the budget proposes a program level of $749 million, a cut of $75 million, or 9.1 percent, below the FY2020 funding level of $824.1 million. The proposed cut would mean that NEI would be funded below its final FY2018 level. The NEI has posted its Congressional Justification which describes programmatic priorities within the proposed budget.

As in the Administration’s FY2020 proposal, its FY2021 budget would consolidate the highest priority activities of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) within NIH as the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality (NIRSQ).    

In response to the proposed budget, NAEVR is supporting a statement issued by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research (to which it belongs) that the President’s FY2021 budget proposal would “devastate the agency’s ability to pursue promising new science to improve and save lives.” The statement concludes by saying that “we must maintain the forward momentum that Congress has driven over the past five years” with the Ad Hoc Group offering to continue to work with lawmakers to ensure better health for patients in FY2021 and beyond.

In that regard, on February 7 and just prior to issuance of the President’s budget, NAEVR managed an Advocacy Day of members of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). The vision community requested from Congress FY2021 NIH funding of $44.7 billion, a $3 billion or 7.2 percent increase over enacted FY2020, and NEI funding of $875 million, a $51 million or 6.2 percent increase over enacted FY2020. Many Congressional offices acknowledged that the ARVO members were the first to visit with detailed FY2021 NIH and NEI funding requests.     

As is often stated, “The President proposes, the Congress disposes,” meaning that the Congress—especially the Committees that deal with appropriations—will have the final say on the FY2021 budget.