The threat of bioterrorism in the United States clearly influenced President George W. Bush’s health priorities in his Fiscal 2003 budget proposal. Concerns about anthrax and other deadly agents being unleashed on Americans prompted the president to propose dramatic spending increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) next fiscal year.
The president’s budget request submitted to Congress last month marks the beginning of the federal budget resolution process in each chamber. The two chambers must reconcile their different bills and pass funding legislation for all federal agencies before the next fiscal year begins in October. The president is proposing increasing the NIH budget by nearly 16 percent, which is $3.7 billion more than the current budget.
The total NIH budget in Fiscal 1998 stood at $13.6 billion, and if Bush’s proposal is passed, that figure will double to $27.3 billion in Fiscal 2003, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
Thompson emphasized last month that the president’s increase shows his commitment to double the 1998 NIH budget by Fiscal 2003.
"The president couldn’t be clearer about his commitment to medical research, the scientific enterprise, and the value of NIH and its work," said Thompson.
APA praised the president for meeting the longstanding bipartisan goal of doubling the 1998 budget for NIH by Fiscal 2003. APA has advocated as a member of the Mental Health Liaison Group and through its Academic Consortium for significant annual increases in the NIH budget since 1998 to meet the five-year goal.
Of the $3.7 billion overall NIH increase, approximately $1.5 billion would be devoted to bioterrorism research, representing a fivefold increase over the current budget, said Thompson.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is the lead research institute on bioterrorism, proposes using the increased funding to expand basic research such as sequencing the genome of potential bioterrorism agents, accelerating development of new anthrax vaccines, and improving diagnostic tools, according to Thompson.
Cancer research is the president’s second health research priority. The lead agency, the National Cancer Institute, would receive an increase of $515 million over its current budget, bringing its total budget to $4.7 billion in Fiscal 2004, according to Thompson. Bioterrorism and cancer research together account for more than half of the president’s proposed NIH budget increase of $3.7 billion for Fiscal 2003.
By contrast, the National Institute of Mental Health would receive an 8 percent increase ($105 million) over last fiscal year, raising its total budget to $1.35 billion for Fiscal 2003.
The president proposed increasing the budgets for the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism by 9 percent each, which would bring their total budgets for Fiscal 2003 to $968 million and $418 million, respectively, if approved by Congress.
The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), which is part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, would receive a $7 million budget increase in Fiscal 2003 for its state-grant program that funds services for homeless individuals with severe mental illnesses, under the proposed budget.
However, other CMHS programs including the Mental Health Block Grant and Children’s Mental Health Services would have their budgets frozen at Fiscal 2002 levels.
The Substance Abuse Block Grant Programs of Regional and National Significance would receive a $60 million increase in Fiscal 2003, boosting its total budget to $1.8 billion. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment would receive a $67 million dollar increase, while the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention would have its budget cut by $45 million. ▪