BETHESDA, MarylandPresident Bush's budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2007 contained some unpleasant news for the cancer community, including a small but symbolically significant cut in funding for the National Cancer Institute (NCI). "The NIH budget is flat, but the NCI budget is down 0.8%," John Niederhuber, MD, the institute's chief executive officer, told the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) one day after Mr. Bush sent his budget proposal to Capital Hill.
The President asked Congress to provide the National Institutes of Health $28.6 billion in FY 2007, the same amount that Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year but $66 million (0.2%) less than the agency received in FY 2005.
For NCI, the new budget request sought $4.754 billion down almost $40 million from the institute's FY 2006 appropriations of $4.793 billion and about $72 million below FY 2005. Because of inflation, the budget requests for NIH and NCI, if accepted and enacted by Congress, would mean a decrease in real dollars. NCI officials foresee a FY 2007 budget actually 3% to 4% below that of this year's appropriated funds.
The new budget plan envisions less money for NCI research project grants (RPGs), as well as other extramural research activities, cancer center support, training, and intramural research. RPG awards would total $2.154 billion in FY 2007 under Mr. Bush's proposal, 45.3% of NCI's total budget but about $51 million less than NCI has for the current year. The institute expects to keep the average dollar value of its RPGs at the same level as this year, about $340,000.
The proposed NCI budget also includes $57.4 million (1.2% of the proposed budget) in funds that would be transferred to the NIH Director's Road Map Initiative, up from $42.8 million the institute must provide this year.
Thus, NCI's senior officials are under additional pressure to squeeze some institute programs to provide money for others, a difficult exercise that senior officials have endured since the ending of the 5 years of congressional largesse that nearly doubled NIH's annual budget.
"We have to be strategic about how we go about using the resources that we have in the most effective way," NCI director Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, told NCAB members. "We are committedas we go through this period of making difficult choices between those programs we will grow and nurture and those we believe have met their desired outcomesthat we will always put scientific excellence as the number one criteria in making those fiscal decisions."