2017 | News

National Institutes of Health Faces a 19 Percent Funding Cut Under Trump’s Proposed Budget

Bethesda-based federal agency could lose $5.8 billion

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An aerial view of the National Institutes of Health headquarters.

Via National Cancer Institute (Wikimedia Commons)

The National Institutes of Health, a federal agency based in Bethesda dedicated to biomedical and health research, would face a 19 percent cut in its funding under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget released Thursday.

Trump’s proposal for fiscal 2018 slashes funding for NIH by $5.8 billion, a nearly one-fifth cut that would reduce its total proposed funding to $25.9 billion.

The budget, which must be approved by Congress, proposes a “major reorganization” of the institutes and centers within NIH, a Department of Health and Human Services agency with headquarters off Rockville Pike outside downtown Bethesda.

It would also eliminate the Fogarty International Center and consolidate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, located in Rockville, within NIH in addition to “other consolidations and structural changes,” according to the text of the budget.

As of 2016, NIH employed 19,261 people on its Bethesda campus, including full-time employees and contractors. The Fogarty International Center employs 112 people, all in Bethesda.

Maryland lawmakers decried the proposed budget cuts for their impact on critical research. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that the cuts attack bipartisan-supported national investments in medical research on disease treatment.

“We need to invest in finding those cures and treatments,” Van Hollen said. “This budget is a bold retreat from that.”

In a written statement, Rep. John Delaney, D-6th district, said Trump’s proposed spending cut “guts” NIH. He urged elected officials to march on the White House to object to the budget and called on Gov. Larry Hogan to forcefully reject it.

Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner, who represents Bethesda, expressed concern that an organization with longtime bipartisan support is facing such massive cuts.

“How can you find a cure for cancer and cut NIH by that amount?” he said Thursday in an interview with Bethesda Beat.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-8th district, blasted the budget cuts to NIH on Twitter and particularly criticized the proposed elimination of the Fogarty International Center, a program that fights diseases and builds partnerships with health organizations abroad.

The Fogarty International Center operates on a $69 million budget and is the only NIH center focused solely on global health. Its programs train scientists internationally and study global health issues, including AIDS work in South Africa and Alzheimer’s disease research in Colombia, according to the center’s website.

Trump’s proposed budget, titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” promised “deep cuts” to foreign aid to prioritize “the security and well-being of Americans.”

NIH officials would not comment on the proposed budget, but Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, appointed by Trump, released a statement noting the budget “necessitates a streamlining of activities” in the department’s agencies.

“HHS is dedicated to fulfilling our department’s mission to improve the health and well-being of the American people,” he wrote. “This budget supports that mission and will help ensure we are delivering critical services to our fellow citizens.”

In a statement included with the budget, Trump did not specifically mention research funding, but wrote of cuts to “[m]any other government agencies” while allocating more funding to defense spending and the building of a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

“These cuts are sensible and rational,” he wrote. “Every agency and department will be driven to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people.”