Behavioral Research Under Attack

APA Picks Up the Gauntlet


Responding to threats from both the House and the Senate to slash behavioral research funding, APA is rallying its forces to convince Congress that this research is vital to addressing the nation's problems.

In its zeal to balance the budget, the new conservative majority in both Houses of Congress has targeted behavioral research for severe reductions or outright elimination in the House and Senate FY 1996 budgets. A flurry of activity among APA staff and other advocates averted proposed funding cuts for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Senate budget. Now the focus is on ensuring support for the social and behavioral sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF). APA will also fight to protect education discretionary programs.

House Budget Targets NSF

Included in the House budget report language is the following statement regarding the recommendations for NSF: This proposal assumes that while science and technology must contribute to the immediate fiscal reality, they must also provide for the opportunities that must be developed in the future. In order for the technological revolution to continue, a strong, fundamental science is needed. Therefore, the proposal assumes that basic research should be prioritized. For instance, NSF civilian research and related activities with the exclusion of social, behavioral, and economic studies [italics added] and the critical technologies institute, can be provided at their current levels plus 3% growth. No reductions are assumed for NSF basic research in the physical sciences. Education and Human Resources can be maintained and Academic Research Infrastructure is assumed at President Clinton's requested level.

The budget assumes a modest 3% increase for the other research directorates at NSF, but only the elimination of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) would meet the budget targets outlined by the House. This language is especially disturbing because it was included in the House report language by Rep. Robert Walker (R-PA), Vice-Chair of the House Budget Committee and Chair of the House Science Committee, which authorizes NSF.

APA and other behavioral and social science organizations are working together to inform Congress about the value of NSF's behavioral and social science research portfolio and to prevent the adoption of the recommended spending cuts by the Appropriatins Committee.

NIH: Large Cut Averted

The House budget assumed a 5% cut in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for FY 1996 and 1997, which will be followed in FY 1998 by a budget freeze--with no increase to offset inflation. Although a cut of this size would be detrimental, NIH advocates are counting on the proresearch chair of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. John Porter (R-IL), to minimize the damage. A greater threat to the NIH budget was the Senate budget resolution, which assumed a much larger cut: $7.9 billion over the budget■s 7-year span.

Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR), with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS), offered an amendment to restore $7 billion to the NIH budget, which was adopted 85 to 14. 'A $7.9-billion cut would have devastated research at NIH,' said Patricia Kobor, APA Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer. 'Scientists are indebted to the three senators for crafting an amendment with such strong bipartisan support.' Although there will probably be small cuts in NIH funding, APA Assistant Director for Science Policy Andrea Solarz, PhD, predicted that NIH will emerge from the budget and appropriations processes this year in relatively good shape.

Education and Other Health Programs Take Hits

The education and health discretionary programs, aside from those at NIH, also received blows from both the House and the Senate. The Senate's budget proposed substantial reductions over the first couple of years; however, the House's proposal called for greater funding cuts in the 'out years' to make up for incorporating a substantial tax cut. Both chambers proposed eliminating or consolidating most education and health programs and drastically reducing funding for those that survive. In addition, the House Budget Committee has proposed the elimination of the Department of Education. Besides cutting the federal budget, Congress clearly would like to transfer to the states as much authority for education and health as possible.

PPO Focuses on Appropriations Process

The Public Policy Office (PPO) is now focusing on the appropriations process. Its goal is to protect research and training programs. As part of this effort, staff are using the burgeoning e-mail networks to circulate legislative updates and action alerts to psychologists. The House ad Senate committees will likely produce spending bills before the August congressional recess.

To join the Science Advocate Network and receive e-mail updates, send a message requesting an application to SAN@APA.ORG.




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