FABBS Advocates for Federal Funding for Behavioral and Brain Sciences

March 12, 2020

Appropriations subcommittees are busy collecting information and hearing from federal agency leadership, constituents, and the advocacy community, as they work to draft fiscal year 2021 budgets under their jurisdictions. On behalf of our scientific societies, FABBS advocates for numerous federal budgets and programs investing the behavioral and brain sciences. To that end, FABBS belongs to over a dozen coalitions that come together in support of these agencies and programs.

Coalitions send letters to Congress, making the case for topline budget levels. These numbers have been agreed upon by the broad community and generally encourage across the board growth. These collaborations are critical for engaging with Hill staffers, as it sends a strong message that the communities agree on the requests, as opposed to working to see more funding for their own interest at the expense of others. Some of these letters are still in draft form as they continue to invite societies to sign on.

The following coalitions are still finalizing letter details:

  • Friends of NCHS requests $189 million, a $14.6 million increase
  • Friends of NICHD

Furthermore, coalitions of coalitions (really) that support federal agencies under the jurisdiction of the same subcommittee, work together to achieve an increase in the allocation to the subcommittee. This year, for the first time, CNSF took the lead bringing the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) community together to ask for a strong allocation for the appropriations subcommittee. The health and education communities have done this in years past and it is an important consideration for agency budgets.

Members of congress also have a variety of ways to communicate their priorities. A member, often in collaboration with a co-lead, may draft a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter addressed to their appropriations committee colleagues. These letters are circulated and all members of Congress are invited to sign on. Members on appropriations committees rarely do as it is essentially perceived as writing a letter to yourself. FABBS and the advocacy community often encourage members to sign these letters. It is particularly valuable for members to hear from universities in their districts. Dear Colleagues are currently circulating in support of NIH, NSF, IES, and to fund Minerva and other DoD research programs.

On March 4th, the Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee held a hearing for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) FY2021 budget. In their opening remarks, subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) committed to continue bipartisan support for medical research, emphasizing the importance of a predictable funding growth trajectory for NIH. Dr. Francis Collins testified and was accompanied by several NIH Institute directors including Dr. Diana Bianchi, NICHD; Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID; Dr. Gary Gibbons, NHLBI; Dr. Ned Sharpless, NCI and Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA. While COVID-19 was most certainly at the top of their minds, members asked a range of questions to all directors. In response to a question about heart disease among Native Americans from ranking member Cole, Dr. Gibbons acknowledged the important role that behavioral and cultural factors play in health disparities. Several members raised the importance of looking at the social determinants of health as they relate to a variety of diseases and poor outcomes.