Meddling in Medical Research and Development | Taxpayers for Common Sense

Old habits die hard. Congressional earmarks have been prohibited since 2010. “Bridges to Nowhere” are scarce but that doesn’t mean Congress isn’t looking to fund pet projects in the huge FY14 Omnibus appropriations bill.

At Taxpayers for Common Sense, we have frequently pointed out Congressional meddling in the area of medical research. Following a process perfected back in the 1990s, Congress has funded medical research not where you would expect to find it – the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – but in the Pentagon budget. Because where better to get funding for your medical research than the Department of Defense (DoD)? If this doesn’t make sense to you, or to us, you can bet it didn’t make sense to HHS or DoD when Congress started doing it. After initial protests from both departments, this budgeting maneuver has become a standard procedure. And while some of the pet projects Congress funds this way, like research into Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), is of importance to DoD, we think you will agree that most of the research projects on this list should not be undertaken by the federal department created to plan for and fight the next war, but someone with a little more medical expertise such as HHS or the National Institute of Health.

See if you agree:

Research Program Area                                               $ Funding in millions

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Disorders                                               4.0

ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”)                                                               7.5

Alzheimers                                                                                        12.0

Autism                                                                                               6.0

Bone Marrow Failure Disease                                                               3.6

Breast cancer                                                                                  120.0

Cancer                                                                                             25.0

Duchenne muscular dystrophy                                                             3.2

Lung cancer                                                                                     10.5

Multiple sclerosis                                                                               5.0

Ovarian cancer                                                                                 20.0

Prostate cancer                                                                               80.0

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex                                                              6.0

Vision                                                                                             10.0

Global HIV/AIDS prevention                                                               8.0

HIV/AIDS program                                                                            7.0

Even the areas that are more tied to warfighting should be considered by experts in treating and dealing with medical issues. Here are some of those medical research programs.

Research Program Area                                              $ Funding in millions

Gulf War Illness                                                                              20.0

Orthopedics                                                                                   30.0

Spinal cord injury                                                                           30.0

Reconstructive transplants                                                              15.0

Traumatic Brain Injury and psychological health                               125.0

Joint Warfighter medical issues                                                     100.0

Trauma clinical research repository                                                  5.0
Orthotics and prosthetics outcomes                                               10.0

Therapeutic service dog training                                                       4.0

The grand total for funding all of the above programs is $666.4 million. We understand this is not a “lot” of money when balanced against the size of the Pentagon budget. And we aren’t saying these aren’t important problems for medical research funding. But at TCS we believe Pentagon spending ought to be on actual Pentagon issues – not issues that could best be handled by the experts at HHS.

Included on the list of research to be funded is the blandly named “medical research.” An additional $200 million is added for this. And you might think, “Okay, at least the Pentagon medical experts can use this money to research issues of specific interest to the military.” But you would be wrong because Congress just can’t help themselves. Two pages later in the bill, we found this language, “Research areas considered under this funding are restricted to the following areas…” And what follows is a list of twenty five research issues from acupuncture, through food allergies to tinnitus (chronic ringing in the ears.)

Let’s review. At least $866 million is in the Pentagon budget to fund medical research that may or may not benefit military service members. Let’s put medical research money where it belongs: the Department of Health and Human Services. And while we’re at it, let’s stop the political meddling in the process.

via Meddling in Medical Research and Development | Taxpayers for Common Sense.