Why research administrators need to care about the fiscal cliff – now, and after the New Year

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. 

If you think the fiscal cliff negotiations have to do with raising taxes on the middle class, and not much else, you’d be wrong.

If you haven’t been following the budget negotiations in Washington, DC, and aren’t sure what the threat of “sequestration” means, here’s a brief “Fiscal-Cliff Notes” review to catch you up on the conversation:

Last November, a Joint Select Committee of Congress on Deficit Reduction couldn’t reach an agreement on how to achieve a $1.2 trillion dollar deficit reduction package for 2013-2021 to introduce to Congress. As a result, the Budget Control Act of 2011 specifies that $1.2 trillion in spending cuts or reduced budget authority would go into effect, starting in 2013, across the board, affecting defense and non-defense programs each year.  The process that enacts the spending cuts is called sequestration.

What will sequestration do to research funding?

The sequestration package, as it is currently written, would reduce funding to research agencies by 8% – which, for the NIH is $2.5 billion dollars, or the ability to make 2,100 new and competing awards. That’s just one agency for one year.

Now apply sequestration to the agency your investigator works with, and do the math.

As one private citizen to another, I’m suggesting that you e-mail your Congressperson today. While you’re at it, let the President, and the Speaker of the House know how you feel about the prospect of our nation falling off the fiscal cliff. Talk personally about your experience. (Word of advice, you are a private citizen when you contact your member of Congress, not a representative of your University. Given that your University is a non-profit of some type, this distinction is important.)

It’s likely that a patchwork deal will be put in place to avert disaster, and the negotiations will continue on after the holidays. Write today – your voice makes a difference for you and everyone counting on the  research we help support.

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