Memorandum Returning Without Approval a Bill on Research and Training Activities of the National Institutes of Health

October 30, 1984

I am withholding my approval of S. 540, the "Health Research Extension Act of 1984," which would extend and amend the biomedical research authorities of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

I have been assured by the Department of Health and Human Services that the Continuing Resolution gives adequate authority for current NIH activities in fiscal year 1985.

This Administration has a record of strong commitment to the support and conduct of biomedical research by the NIH. Each year since taking office, I have requested increases for biomedical research. In 1985, the NIH will receive its largest increase in appropriated funds in history. This increase will ensure the continued operation of the NIH for the coming year and will continue to assist in improving medical practice and the health of the American people.

Rather than improve our research efforts, however, the unfortunate result of S. 540 would be to impede the progress of this important health activity by:

  • Creating unnecessary, expensive new organizational entities;

    -- two institutes would be created, an arthritis and a nursing institute. This reorganization of the NIH is premature in light of a study of the NIH organizational structure to be released in a few weeks by the Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences.

    -- numerous bodies, such as a National Commission on Orphan Diseases, an Interagency Committee on Learning Disabilities, and a Lupus Erythematosus Coordinating Committee, would be created for which there are existing mechanisms that could or already perform such functions.

  • Mandating overly specific requirements for the management of research that place undue constraints on Executive branch authorities and functions;

    -- new positions would be created and numerous reports required that would divert scarce resources away from the NIH central mission of basic biomedical research.

    -- the various NIH peer review groups would be exempted from the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and Office of Management and Budget oversight. This represents an unwarranted interference with internal Executive branch management over the largest number of advisory groups for any Federal agency.

  • Going beyond the Administration's request to extend only expiring authorities by rewriting all the relevant statutes of the NIH;

    -- current law contains sufficient authority and flexibility to carry out the important research and training activities of NIH, to respond to public concerns, and to meet scientific needs and opportunities. Imposing a uniform set of authorities for each research institution disregards the more extensive mission of some institutes and overburdens smaller institutes which do not need these additional programmatic and advisory responsibilities.

    -- this attempt to recodify existing statutory language has resulted in some so-called technical revisions that will result in undesired operational changes in some of the institute programs.

I want to underscore my commitment to biomedical research and the National Institutes of Health. The NIH has stood as an example of excellence for 40 years. I do not believe that it is either necessary or wise to revise completely the laws under which it has so successfully operated.

I therefore find no reasonable justification for the extensive changes to the NIH mandated by S. 540. In order to better serve the promise and the future of our national biomedical research enterprise, I am withholding my approval of this bill.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

October 30, 1984.