Stone, Alex
February 2003
New Republic;2/10/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 5, p13
Members of the Democratic and Republican parties regularly hail the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) as the "crown jewel" of the federal government. In 2003, the NIH will receive its fifth consecutive budget increase. But a closer look at the NIH reveals a far less rosy picture. Ironically, the very enthusiasm that has led Congress to shower the NIH with funding has also undermined its ability to spend those funds effectively. First, there is the problem of overhead. Then there are the logistical headaches involved in trying to integrate the efforts of all these units. This lack of cohesion undermines initiatives that require cooperation between institutes. So what is responsible for the creation of new institute after new institute? The answer, in a word, is politics. The problem has become serious enough that Congress recently commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to issue a formal report, due out this summer, on the organization of the NIH. But recent history suggests that little will come of it. To solve this problem, a certain measure of consolidation is necessary. Limits should also be placed on the creation of new agencies. Rather than add bureaucracy, Congress should use future budget increases to strengthen the more derelict sectors of the NIH.


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