Three months after the CDC was rebuffed in its attempt to reorganize the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) into subordinate status in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (see Opposition Shelves NIOSH Reorganization), the Bush administration has proposed a cut in the research organization’s budget.

For fiscal year 2006 (FY 2006), the President is proposing a seemingly tiny decrease in the NIOSH budget from $286.0 million to $285.9 million. However, the cut is likely to be far more substantial because of the way the CDC charges NIOSH for “business services support.” The CDC takes a portion of the NIOSH budget to cover certain overhead costs that run across all CDC sub-agencies. In FY 2001, the first year of the Bush administration, NIOSH paid $10.7 million (4.3 percent) for business services support, leaving $247.2 million for its actual operations. The charge has increased each year, reaching $44.7 million (15.6 percent) last year and effectively eliminating any increase in NIOSH operations during these years. Though the charge for FY 2006 has not been announced, any increase over FY 2005 will result in a corresponding cut in NIOSH operations.

At the same time, the FY 2006 budget proposes a cut from 1435 full time NIOSH employee positions to 1246, a reduction of 13.7 percent. While many of these positions are currently unfilled, this proposal would make it virtually impossible to ever fill them.

According to LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division Director Scott Schneider, who last month was appointed to NIOSH’s Board of Scientific Advisors, “These budget proposals could have a serious impact on NIOSH’s ability to fulfill its mandate.” Thus, at the Board’s March 23 meeting where the budget proposal was presented, Schneider made a motion for the Board to go on record with serious concerns about the budget trend and to request NIOSH Director John Howard to express the Board’s concerns to the CDC and the Congress. The resolution passed unanimously. Howard testifies before Congress on April 7.