APA CEO calls on budget conferees to overturn sequestration

Calls on Congress to protect critical investments in research and anti-poverty programs.

Working against a late November deadline, and in the face of entrenched partisan differences, a House-Senate conference committee is meeting to negotiate the final budget ceiling, which dictates what the level of spending will be in fiscal year 2014. The American Psychological Association's CEO Norman Anderson, PhD, has written the conferees, urging them to replace sequestration with a deficit reduction plan that allows for sustained investment in critical nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs (such as scientific research, education and public health).

Anderson's letter makes a strong case against sequestration. "These cuts have dealt devastating blows to key government programs that make our nation a world leader. As psychologists who provide mental health services, teach in universities, manage public health programs, and conduct research, we see the effects of sequestration all around us. Critical research sits on-hold; a generation of young researchers is being driven away by the lack of career opportunities; senior investigators are leaving research altogether; and prior investments in science are being undermined. Grants for mental health services and training for health care professionals are endangered. Low-income communities suffer from cuts to housing, food assistance, child care, Head Start, and other essential safety net programs. These cuts also slow economic growth and worsen unemployment."

Anderson concludes, "APA supports a balanced approach to deficit reduction, one that does not rely solely on spending cuts and that treats defense and non-defense programs equally. Sequester replacement should also protect low-income programs so that poverty and hardship are not increased, and it should strengthen the economic recovery and expand opportunity."

APA has also cosigned a letter by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Funding that focuses on sequestration's impact on the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In the agreement that ended the federal government shutdown in mid-October, Congress funded a continuing resolution that would pay for government services through Jan. 15. The agreement called for a budget conference committee to set a budget ceiling so that Congress may pass individual appropriations bills (such as the Labor-HHS-Education bill that funds the NIH). That conference is required to report its resolution by Dec. 15, although appropriations subcommittee chairs in the House and Senate have asked the committee to report by Thanksgiving so that they have time to bring spending bills to the floor. Additional sequestration cuts of $20 billion, which will primarily affect defense programs, are set to fall in early January if Congress does not pass legislation that delays or overturns them.