May 02, 2017

Global health and medical research saved from spending cuts in FY17 budget agreement

Policy and Advocacy Officer
Program Assistant
Architect of the Capitol

On Monday, Congress struck a deal finalizing government spending legislation for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2017. Since October 1, 2016, the government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions (CR)—maintaining government spending at FY16 levels until a full deal for FY17 could be negotiated. With the omnibus legislation in place, we expect both houses of Congress to pass the final FY17 bill this week. 

There was strong bipartisan, bicameral support for advancing FY17 omnibus legislation that reflected priorities, compromises, and negotiations reached during the regular FY17 appropriations process. This means that strong congressional support for protecting medical research and global health in individual FY17 appropriations bills was carried through in the final legislation. While we know there will be more challenges in the FY18 budget and appropriations process, the FY17 omnibus was an encouraging sign that Congress understands the vital role of US global health and medical research programs.

US Agency for International Development and State Department

While the Trump Administration proposed rescissions for the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) global health funding for FY17—including cuts to the President’s Emergency Plans for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), polio, tuberculosis (TB), neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and eliminating global health security funding—in the final FY17 omnibus, global health programs at USAID saw an 8 percent boost in funding, totaling just over US$3 billion versus $2.83 billion in FY16. Notable increases included $5 million for TB, $81 million for malaria, $40 million for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and $70 million for global health security to create a new Emergency Reserve Fund to respond rapidly to emerging health threats. Other global health accounts within USAID and the State Department received level funding.

USAID continues to play a leading role in the US government’s action on global health research and development (R&D), and it is critical that global health programs receive appropriate funding so that investments in R&D will continue to be prioritized among other activities. The combination of increased funding for some key programs and level funding for others in FY17 is a positive sign that Congress shares our priorities and will work to protect these accounts in more challenging budget and appropriations conversations for FY18.

National Institutes of Health

Strong bipartisan support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) continued in the FY17 bill. Overall, NIH received a $2 billion increase, raising total funding for FY17 to $34 billion. However, it’s important to note that little of this increase will likely support global health programming. Much of this increase was to fund enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act, but notable increases that could benefit global health R&D included a 6 percent or $277 million increase for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a $1.76 million increase for the Fogarty International Center, and additional funding for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

While NIH has long enjoyed bipartisan support—and thus it is not surprising to see a funding boost in FY17—it was notable that the Trump Administration proposed over $1.2 billion in rescissions for NIH for FY17 and a 19 percent cut to NIH funding for FY18, including eliminating the Fogarty International Center. NIH leads the world in global health R&D, and its work in basic research is vital to advancing new drugs, vaccines, therapeutics, and other tools for neglected diseases and conditions. It is encouraging to see Congress maintain and increase NIH funding overall and prioritize US leadership in medical research for FY17; however, greater support is needed for NIH programs that advance research for neglected diseases and conditions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) funding for global health was also protected in the final FY17 omnibus. Overall, the CDC Center for Global Health saw an $8 million increase from FY16 funding levels, including targeted increases for global public health protection and global disease protection activities.

A laboratory worker wearing a surgical mask works with samples. (Photo: PATH/Mike Wang)
Funding for polio and measles was increased, while parasitic diseases, malaria, and global HIV/AIDS funding remained level. In addition, the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases received a $5 million increase.

CDC plays an important role in detecting, preventing, and responding to infectious disease threats at home and around the world. This work is critical to developing new prevention and diagnosis technologies, particularly those to address endemic and emerging global health threats. Robust funding for CDC’s global health programs is vital to advancing global health R&D and promoting global health security.

Department of Defense

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) work in infectious disease R&D was also strengthened in the final FY17 omnibus. DoD’s Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program—which conducts research on antimicrobial resistance, diarrheal diseases, emerging infectious diseases, malaria, TB, and vaccine development for infectious diseases—received $300 million in funding. In addition, the bill included strong report language supporting DoD’s critical work in global health R&D and supporting continued and robust investments.

The final FY17 spending bill is encouraging news for global health R&D as it protected funding for critical global health and medical research accounts across USAID, NIH, CDC, and DoD. However, this victory may be only temporary, as we know that many of these same accounts will face intense pressures in FY18 budget negotiations, given aggressive action by the Trump Administration to downsize activities and reduce government spending. GHTC will continue to champion strong US leadership in global health R&D and stress the impacts of these important programs in protecting health at home and around the world.