Skip to main content

FY17 Appropriations Bills: National Institutes of Health

Re-posted from American Institute of Physics(AIP), 27 July 2016

House and Senate appropriators are seeking to reverse the administration’s proposed 3.1 percent discretionary funding cut to the National Institutes of Health and instead boost the agency’s budget by as much as $2 billion above current levels. Under their proposals, all NIH research institutes would see increases.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have completed work on the fiscal year 2017 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill that funds the National Institutes of Health. While neither full chamber has yet considered the bill, both committees approved reports that provide policy guidance and detailed spending proposals for the biomedical research agency.

In the reports, the appropriators propose reversing the administration’s requested 3.1 percent cut in discretionary spending for NIH in fiscal year 2017 and significantly increasing NIH’s overall budget, including the budgets of four major NIH institutes connected to the physical sciences: the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and National Institute on Deafness & Other Communications Disorder.

The House appropriators’ proposals and explanatory language are in the NIH section of the House Labor-HHS-Education committee report beginning on page 56. The corresponding section of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education committee report begins on page 81.

The below table compares the House and Senate spending proposals for NIH, based on the figures in the committee reports. Additional details are available in AIP’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

FY17 NIH Appropriations Summary Table

Funding LineFY16
National Cancer Institute5,2145,097-2.2%5,3382.4%5,4304.1%
National Institute of General Medical Sciences2,5122,434-3.1%2,5842.8%2,6344.8%
National Institute on Deafness & Other Communications Disorders423416-1.6%4342.6%4424.5%
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering344334-2.8%3573.9%3615.1%

* Excludes $1.825 billion in proposed mandatory spending, $680 million of which is for the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

** All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.

Appropriators prioritize biomedical research, including BRAIN Initiative

Thus far, NIH stands out as a winner in this year’s congressional appropriations cycle. The Senate and House Appropriations Committees prioritized biomedical research in bipartisan fashion among other programs in the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill, approving major funding increases for NIH on June 9 and July 14, respectively.

NIH is already benefiting this year from a hefty $2 billion spending boost it received in the 2016 year-end spending bill. While the administration proposes in its fiscal year 2017 budget request to cut this budget plus up in half, by $1 billion or 3.1 percent, House and Senate appropriators have different ideas. They want to invest in the continued growth of NIH even in the face of a highly constrained federal budget environment. The Senate proposes to double down on last year’s increase, upping NIH’s budget by another $2 billion, while the House proposes a slightly more modest $1.25 billion increase.

Neither committee chose to include requested funds for the president’s newly proposed cancer moonshot initiative, which the administration would like Congress to support through a $755 million mandatory spending set aside split between NIH and the Food and Drug Administration. Pushing more effective coordination in the cancer community, the cancer moonshot initiative would link up with the National Photonics Initiative, an alliance of scientific societies uniting industry and academia to raise awareness of photonics, in order to coordinate the development of a cancer technology roadmap that identifies the most promising technologies that will accelerate the early detection of cancer.

At the House Appropriations Committee markup on July 14, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment to provide $750 million for the cancer moonshot initiative, but Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) opposed the amendment and criticized the administration for not yet fleshing out details. Appropriators are, however, proposing to increase discretionary funding for on the National Cancer Institute, which would serve as the hub of the cancer moonshot initiative.

Another of the administration’s requests, for the BRAIN Initiative to map individual cells and complex neural circuits that interact in the human brain, received support from both chambers’ appropriations committees. The House proposes to increase funding for the Initiative from $150 million in the current year to $195 million in fiscal year 2017, an amount equal to the administration’s request. The Senate would go even further, proposing an increase to $250 million.

Side-by-side comparison of House and Senate committee reports

Below are a set of expandable tabs which contain excerpts from the explanatory reports for NIH that accompany the House and Senate bills.
Prioritization of Biomedical Research
Grant Success Rates
Cancer Moonshot
BRAIN Initiative