Congress missed the March 1, 2013, deadline for replacing the $1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts (sequestration) mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. As a consequence, federal defense and domestic programs, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are facing an across-the-board cut—or “sequester”—of $85 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. This translates to an approximately 9 percent budget cut for the NIH and other “nonexempt nondefense programs” (nonexempt defense programs will see a cut of approximately 13 percent). Congress deemed a few agencies “exempt,” including Medicare (with cuts capped at 2 percent) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (which is completely exempt from cuts). The remaining $1.1 trillion in cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will be implemented between 2014 and 2021.
NIH recently sent letters to current grantees notifying them of these steep cuts. The agency intends to prioritize administrative costs and current obligations over new research. However, all noncompeting continuation awards are currently being funded at a level below that indicated on the most recent notice of award (generally up to 90 percent). Although some awards may possibly be restored to higher levels, they probably will not reach the full FY 2013 commitment level.
According to NIH, “Plans for new grants and contracts may be re-scoped, delayed, or canceled depending on the nature of the work and the availability of resources.” The agency also sent a letter to current contractors about cuts that may affect them. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, instructed each NIH institute and center to put together their own plans for applying the cuts in ways that minimize the scientific impact. The plans will be announced soon. Links to those announcements will be available on the NIH extramural financial operations page at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/financial/index.htm.