Panel Urges MorePower for NIH Director,Reassessment ofNCI's Special Status

September 1, 2003
Oncology, ONCOLOGY Vol 17 No 9, Volume 17, Issue 9

Congress should strengthen the powers of the director of theNational Institutes of Health (NIH) and reconsider the specialstatus and authority of the National Cancer Institute (NCI),according to a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee thatassessed the organization and management of NIH. The congressionallymandated study also recommended several mergers within NIH but didnot endorse a major restructuring of the agency, as some critics had urged.

Panel Urges MorePower for NIH Director,Reassessment ofNCI's Special StatusCongress should strengthen the powers of the director of theNational Institutes of Health (NIH) and reconsider the specialstatus and authority of the National Cancer Institute (NCI),according to a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee thatassessed the organization and management of NIH. The congressionallymandated study also recommended several mergers within NIH but didnot endorse a major restructuring of the agency, as some critics had urged.The semi-independent status of the NCI has long been a sore pointwith some people within NIH. Under the National Cancer Act of 1971,the NCI director, unlike other institute and center directors, is appointedby the President and approved by the Senate. Moreover, the NCIbudget goes directly to the White House"Because the President appoints the NCI director and the NCIbudget bypasses the NIH director, it is possible that an unnecessary riftis created between the goals, mission, and leadership of NIH and thoseof NCI," the committee said. Therefore, "Congress should reassess theprovisions of the National Cancer Act of 1971, particularly as theyaffect the authority of the NIH director to hire senior management andplan and coordinate the NIH budget and its programs in their entirety."