When House and Senate budget negotiators emerged from eleventh-hour wrangling last Friday, they not only spared the country a government shutdown, they also largely spared the NIH budget from drastic reductions. Unlike an earlier bill passed by the House that would have slashed $1.6 billion from the NIH for the remaining fiscal year 2011, the final agreement, approved by both Houses of Congress 13 April 2011, cuts $260 million, or 0.8 percent compared to 2010. With organizations such as USAgainstAlzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer's Disease (LEAD) leading the charge, many researchers in the field had lobbied their Senators and congressional representatives to protect the NIH budget. Sally Sachar of USAgainstAlzheimer's wrote to ARF that Alzforum readers played a part when they responded promptly to alerts on this website about letters urging Congress to sustain NIH funding. Alzforum readers drove to 481 the number of signatories for the most recent letter, submitted to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on 4 April 2011.
A cut it is, though, and the bulk of it will be spread proportionately through the 27 NIH institutes, with the remainder coming off NIH building and facilities accounts, according to USAgainstAlzheimer’s. The 2011 NIH budget stands at $30.7 billion, of which the NIA’s 2010 budget was about $1.1 billion. That might sound like a lot, but for an institute charged with protecting the health of Americans, it pales in comparison to the $660 billion defense budget. Interestingly enough, a small fraction of the Department of Defense budget, $15 million, is to be set aside for Alzheimer’s research, thanks to efforts by Democrat representatives Jim Moran from Virginia, Steve Israel from New York, and Norm Dicks from Washington State. For comparison, this new research funding is slightly above the amount the Alzheimer’s Association research grant program awarded in 2010 (click 2010 grants portfolio pdf for summary). The new DoD funds will be used to study if veterans are more susceptible to AD than non-veterans, and may explore the role of certain risk factors in dementia, including genes, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. For more detail, see news release.—Tom Fagan.