November 8, 2002 - Research and Public Health Programs Appropriations for FY 2003

The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
2369 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1314

Dear Speaker Hastert:

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which represents over 42,000 members, is writing to urge your support for rapid action by Congress and the Administration on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 appropriation for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which includes the budgets for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since October 1, 2002, the beginning of the fiscal year, NIH, CDC, and other essential research and public health agencies, have been operating under a series of continuing resolutions that hold funding on these programs at FY 2002 levels. We urge Congress and the Administration to expedite passage of an FY 2003 appropriation bill for the DHHS and approve new funding for the NIH at the proposed level of $27.3 billion. The proposed FY 2003 budget for NIH includes urgently needed new funding to markedly expand the nation's civilian biodefense research efforts to develop medical treatments to protect the nation's citizens in the event of a bioterrorism attack, as well as additional funding to strengthen and increase research to understand, treat and prevent a myriad of diseases that threaten public health.

We urge Congress and the Administration not to adopt a long-term continuing resolution that would have the effect of impeding, delaying and creating paralyzing uncertainty about FY 2003 funding for critical programs and initiatives to defend the nation against bioterrorism and growing health challenges. The capability to develop effective measures to counter the effects of potential bioterrorism has never been more urgent. A long-term continuing resolution at FY 2002 levels without the proposed increases in new funding for FY 2003 would essentially halt progress on high priority research already underway or being planned and would leave the nation under prepared with little investment in areas of significant research importance for civilian biodefense.

We urge that increased funding for DHHS, NIH, CDC as well as other research agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), which sponsors research vital to the nation's well being, not be delayed any further and that their budgets not be flat-funded or reduced as the appropriations process is completed for FY 2003. We urge that you sustain the strong bipartisan commitment to research and public health by supporting quick enactment of increased appropriations, at the highest level possible, for essential federal research and public health programs. Thank you for your support.