What is Sequestration?

When you read or hear about “sequestration” in the news today, it refers to a process that automatically cuts the federal budget across most departments and agencies.  

Congress included the threat of sequestration in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 as a way to encourage compromise on deficit reduction efforts.  The BCA contained agreements on federal spending levels and the debt ceiling, and it created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. This bipartisan “Super Committee,” made up of Members of the House and Senate, was instructed to reduce the federal deficits by an additional $1.2 trillion.  The sequestration procedure was put in place as a backup in case the Super Committee did not reach its $1.2 trillion goal.

Because the Super Committee failed to achieve its goal, sequestration – automatic cuts that apply largely across the board on defense and non-defense discretionary programs– has gone into effect and federal spending will be cut by $85 billion this year and $1.2 trillion over ten years.  PAN is disappointed that Congress did not reach a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would permanently remove these devastating across-the-board cuts.

Why does it matter?

Across-the-board cuts will have a harmful impact on many government programs and activities important to the Parkinson’s community, including biomedical research and drug approvals.

For example:

  • Sequestration cuts $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget and the elimination of thousands of jobs around the country.  NIH funding is a driver of local economies across the country.  According to United for Medical Research, in 2012, NIH investment supported 402,000 jobs and generated $57.8 billion in economic activity; 
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cut by $209 million this year, which will slow new drug reviews.  The gold standard Parkinson’s drug was discovered in 1967 and there is currently no drug that slows or stops the progression of Parkinson’s.  The Parkinson’s community relies on the FDA to quickly approve new drugs and devices that will improve quality of life; and
  • The Department of Defense (DoD) Parkinson’s research program (NETPR) will also be cut, and potential new breakthroughs to protect our troops from toxic substances, head injuries, and other possible contributors to Parkinson’s could be lost.

While funding cuts may not be felt immediately or all at once, they will delay years of critical research on a cure for Parkinson's and other diseases.