#CutsHurt! Email Congress Today and Urge Them to End Budget Cuts

On July 15, the American Association for Dental Research (AADR), as part of the Coalition for Health Funding (CHF), which represents more than 90 public health advocacy organizations, released a new report documenting the dire consequences of Congress’s deep cuts to public health programs in recent years. “Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Hurt America’s Health” illustrates how recent outbreaks of measles, the steady drumbeat of school shootings at the hands of mentally ill gunmen, and an epidemic of heroin abuse have all been exacerbated by cuts to programs designed to address such issues of public concern. AADR’s contribution to the publication highlighting the recent austerity measures significant impact on dental, oral and craniofacial research may be found on pages 36-37.

Why is this important? Most reporters and members of Congress believe that the story about budget cuts stopped in December with the approval of the Bipartisan Budget Act; however we know this agreement only provided limited relief and in 2016 sequestration will be back in full force.  The ultimate goal with this report is to highlight the impact of federal budget cuts, compel Congress to lift the spending caps and put an end to these austerity measures (once and for all).

Take Action: Click here to help amplify our message on Capitol Hill today by sending an email to Congress and urge them to stop further cuts to biomedical research and public health programs. Please insert a personal story about the impact of budget cuts on your programs between the second and third paragraphs.


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The Importance of Advocacy: Update from the AADR Gert Quigley Fellow

By Sarah Hiyari 2014-15 AADR Gert Quigley Fellow

Over the summer, I spent six weeks in Washington, DC serving as the AADR Gert Quigley fellow. My time in DC was spent attending hearings, observing bill mark-ups that authorize agency activities or provide funding for government agencies, meeting with congressional staff to discuss oral and craniofacial research, visiting the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and attending meetings held by various health coalitions.

My educational background is set firmly in science. I have pursued research from my undergraduate days until now, working on a Ph.D. in oral biology at UCLA. Yet, I have been pretty divorced from the intricate roles that Congress plays in providing, promoting and furthering science in America. We all feel the side effects of congressional policy and funding outcomes: limited money for research projects, the high pressures to constantly produce top quality manuscripts, publish or perish, and the ever daunting fact that the average age to receive an R01 is around 40 (yikes!), but I never knew the congressional process that takes place. For some reason I just assumed that because I understood science’s importance for basic discovery, benefiting health care, and establishing America as a leading nation, that everyone else should see and understand its benefit too.

You would be hard pressed to find a member of Congress state outright that they do not support science in America however; I have seen that the true benefits of scientific discoveries are not effectively translated, in a way that nonscientists (i.e. members of Congress) can understand. That’s where we come in as scientists. It’s not only our job to investigate and perform great research; we have to be vocal about it, because if we don’t do it, who will?

Being in D.C. and on the hill, I have also observed how issues that may seem unrelated to science can have a huge effect on funding for research. This summer, a number of issues surfaced including the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) crossing the U.S. border, the wildfires on the west coast and the veteran’s health issues, to name a few. While these issues seem to be in a completely separate realm from science, they require financial action from Congress and in a climate where money is sparse, it’s inevitable that other programs get financially squeezed.
While many of these issues are out of our control, one thing I’ve learned from being on Capitol Hill is how much we can advocate for continued scientific research, and dental and craniofacial research in particular. These advocacy activities, such as meeting with members of Congress, sending action alerts and letters of support start with us, as students, and are actually pretty easy to do. Getting involved early with organizations advocating on behalf of oral health such as AADR gives us a voice and a resource of like-minded colleagues and together, we can all make a difference.

I look forward to continuing my work as the Gert Quigley Fellow this year as an active member of the AADR Government Affairs Committee and the AADR National Student Research Group. If you want to become more involved in AADR advocacy, please contact Director of Government Affairs Carolyn Mullen at cmullen@aadr.org.



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More Budget Cuts? It’s Possible. Advocate Today!

Last year Congress implemented devastating budget cuts known as sequestration and shutdown the federal government. This year, despite the efforts of our community, the appropriations process has stalled and increased funding for dental, oral and craniofacial research may not happen.

What can you do?
This August, members of Congress will be working in your state and community. You can invite a member of Congress to tour your research facility or schedule a district office meeting. During these interactions it is imperative that members of Congress know that federal budget cuts have consequences and increased funding for dental, oral and craniofacial research is necessary.

Members of Congress listen and care deeply about the opinions of their constituents. While AADR works on your behalf in Washington, DC, local advocacy is extremely important to amplify our message here and for you to build a relationship with members of Congress.

To participate in the AADR August advocacy activities, please contact Carolyn Mullen at cmullen@aadr.org to learn more.


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Senate Proposes Increased Funding for NIH and NIDCR

Earlier this week, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee voted to move its version of the fiscal year (FY)15 LHHS Appropriations bill forward to the full Appropriations committee. According to the summary and accompanying charts released by the subcommittee this legislation proposes $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $402.4 million for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The proposed funding level for NIDCR is an approximate $5.8 million increase from the FY14 and $5.3 million over the President’s FY15 budget request.

Unfortunately, at this time it is unclear when or if the full Senate Appropriations committee will consider this legislation due to the continued contentious political climate. As a result, the legislative text and accompanying report language have not been released. Additionally, the House of Representatives LHHS Subcommittee has not set a date for consideration of their version of the FY15 LHHS bill.

In the upcoming weeks and months, AADR will continue advocate on behalf of dental, oral and craniofacial research to ensure increased funding is secured in the final FY15 Appropriation bill.


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National Science Foundation: Funding Update

Recently the House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill by a 321-87 vote and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill yesterday. The CJS bill proposes funding allocations for the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.  For NSF specifically, the House allocated approximately $7.4 billion, a $232 million increase from FY2014 and $149 million above the President’s budget request. The Senate proposed $7.25 billion, which is $83 million above FY2014 and level with the President’s budget request.

The Senate bill includes report language commending the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for their work on open access to federal research and expects the majority of federal agencies to implement plans to increase public access to federally funded scientific research by early 2015. Additionally, both bills included report language calling on OSTP, in coordination with the National Institutes of Health and other agencies to coordinate and create a roadmap for medical imaging research.

During the next month the Senate FY15 CJS bill will move to the floor for consideration by the full Senate. Following votes on this legislation, the House and Senate will resolve the differences between the two versions of the CJS bills.


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Mind the Tap Campaign: Attacks on HHS Evaluation Tap Have Consequences

This week the Friends of the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Friends of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) launched a campaign to educate the public and Congress about an obscure budget mechanism known as the evaluation tap. Established in 1970, the evaluation tap is a unique budget transfer that authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use or “tap” a portion of appropriations from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Congress specifies the amount of the tap in the annual appropriations bills, which in recent years is 2.5 percent of program appropriations. As a result, the budget authority appropriated to the agencies specified in the annual appropriations bills overstates the amount of money available for the agencies to spend. For example, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research received  $398.6 million, but after the evaluation tap and other transfers were administered the final funding level was $397.1 million in fiscal year 2014.

Importantly, the tap is used to support, in full or part, more than a dozen critical public health and health research functions such as the Agency for Health Research and Quality and half of the budget for the National Center for Health Statistics.  Therefore, without the evaluation tap, many critical health functions will be significantly undermined, or cease to exist.

According to Academy Health, “In the upcoming months, policymakers may look to eliminate or reduce the evaluation tap as a way to ‘increase’ funding for contributing health agencies while complying with austere spending caps. However, such action is not without consequences.” If the tap is eliminated or reduced without an alternative funding mechanism, this will have significant consequences for all of the agencies and programs funded by the tap.

To learn more about the evaluation tap, click here to read a one page document created by the Friends of AHRQ and the Friends of NCHS.


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AADR Urges Committee to Vote No on the FIRST Act (H.R. 4186)

Yesterday, AADR sent a letter to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee voicing our opposition to the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186).  This legislation proposes policy changes and authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation.  Many members of the scientific community, including the National Science Board, voiced opposition to the bill because it would, “…impose constraints that would compromise NSF’s ability to fulfill its statutory purpose. Some elements of the bill would also impose significant new burdens on scientists that would not be offset by gains to the nation.”  Specifically, this legislation also proposes to make changes to merit review process and includes language about public access policies. AADR is concerned about the FIRST Act for the following reasons:

  • The authorizing levels fail to keep pace with inflation;
  • Significantly cuts the authorizing level for social sciences and humanities research by 22%; and
  • Proposes new requirements for the grant making process.

Sam Stein from the Huffington Post wrote an article entitled, “The Next Frontier in the War Over Science,” which describes the concerning components of the legislation.

Despite our efforts and those of the broader scientific community, late yesterday evening the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology approved the FIRST Act (H.R. 4186) by a vote along party lines. Any amendments that sought to strike the problematic sections related to the grant making process were not approved by the committee. Also, an amendment further reducing the authorization for social, behavioral and economics research by $50 million was approved by a vote of 20-15.

The bill is now headed to the floor of the House. At this time it is unclear when it will be considered by the full House of Representatives. As this legislation moves forward, AADR will continue to work with the scientific community to ensure preservation of the merit review process and robust authorizing levels for the National Science Foundation.


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Appropriations Update: Fiscal Year 2015 Allocations are Set

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the allocations known as 302(b)s for the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills.  Importantly, these allocations adhere to the $1.014 trillion top line number established by the Bipartisan Budget Act.  The Senate Labor Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Appropriation bill will receive $156.773 billion, which is level with fiscal year 2014 and $1.1 billion more than the House LHHS allocation of $155.693 billion. The Senate allocation will enable sustained funding for many public health programs, however other programs may face cuts and significant increases will not be possible this year. According to a statement released by the Coalition for Health Funding:

“The discretionary spending cap established by the Bipartisan Budget Act provided some temporary relief, but remains too low to restore funding for core government functions. Continued stagnation will cause real and irreparable hardship for millions of Americans in the long-term. The Senate’s flat 302(b) allocation in FY 2015—which remains approximately 4 percent below FY 2010 levels and nearly 12 percent below 2010, when adjusted for inflation—will require continued cuts to job training, health, and education programs that put Americans’ public health at risk and stymie medical progress, harm the economy by making it more difficult to provide more people with needed job training, reduce the quality of education for our nation’s schoolchildren, and make it more expensive to attend college.”

Unfortunately, the persistent austere budget climate continues to put a strain on discretionary spending. AADR will continue to urge Congress to undo sequestration and these austerity measures once and for all.


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Office of Management and Budget Memo to Federal Agencies

The Office of Management and Budget recently sent a memo to all federal agencies providing guidance for the development of their fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget requests. Specifically, this memo requires all federal agencies to reduce their budgets by 2 percent below fiscal year 2015. In addition to reducing the overall budgets by 2 percent the agencies are then requested to identify additional investments in effective programs to further support their mission. These “additional” requests should be 5 percent above the fiscal year 2015 level. It is expected that these other investments will be utilized to illustrate the funding needed to,  “…restore discretionary spending to levels needed to grow our economy.”

The rationale for additional reductions in the President’s FY16 budget is due to the fact that the overall amount of funding available for discretionary spending established by the 2011 Budget Control Act is still extremely low.  Unless Congress works together to change the current law funding for discretionary programs will be unable to grow.



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AADR Selects University of California, Los Angeles Student for Gert Quigley Fellowship

AADR is pleased to announce the selection of Sarah Al-Hiyari from the University of California, Los Angeles as the 2014-15 Gert Quigley Fellow.   Sarah is a third year Oral Biology Ph.D. student working with Dr. Flavia Pirih and Dr. Sotirios Tetradis.  Her research focuses primarily on understanding the genetic basis of periodontitis.  Sarah received her undergraduate degree in Microbiology from Texas Tech University, where she graduated magna cum laude and she has a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology.  Sarah has a deep passion for educating policymakers about the value and importance of dental, oral, and craniofacial research.  Moreover, Sarah states, “The AADR Gert Quigley Fellowship will allow me to educate fellow dental researchers, clinicians, and general community members about important legislative policies in dental research. To have a more effective career in research, it is critical that I understand the federal budgeting process and its impact on funding opportunities.”

The Gert Quigley Public Policy Fellowship provides a unique learning experience both in Washington, DC and through grassroots efforts at the participants local university or institution. This fellowship is designed to familiarize dental school, Ph.D., or dual degree students with the federal legislative process as it relates to basic and translational dental and craniofacial research, as well as research on the oral health care delivery system. Applications for the 2015-16 Gert Quigley Public Policy Fellowship will be available in March 2015.


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