On Friday, March 1, 2013, the President issued a sequestration order to agencies, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The act requires $1.2 trillion in spending cuts between now and FY 2021. In the current fiscal year, the law requires $85 billion in indiscriminant, across-the-board cuts to all federal "programs, projects, and activities." The Office and Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that the cuts represent a 5.1 percent reduction to nondefense discretionary programs, including health services research and data collection activities.

However, we do not yet know how cuts will be applied to your federally funded grants and contracts specifically, as agencies will have some discretion in implementing the cuts. For example, it will be up to the agency to determine how to apply the cuts across: (1) intramural and extramural portfolios; (2) grants and contracts; and (3) continuation and new grants. OMB has directed agencies to keep the lines of communication open with affected stakeholders—including states, contractors, and grantees—"so that third parties are able to adjust their operations and plans as appropriate." It’s our understanding that guidance from agencies will be forthcoming this week. We will share more information about sequestration and its implementation as it becomes available.

In the meantime, March represents a critical window of opportunity to stop sequestration. Lawmakers see the March 27 expiration of the continuing resolution—the stop-gap funding measure keeping the government open—as the principal vehicle to offer a sequestration alternative. AcademyHealth will continue to educate policymakers about the value of health services research and the harmful impact of these cuts on our field, but we can’t do it alone. We urge you to visit our advocacy website and share your concerns with your elected officials.

You may also wish to register for our upcoming webinar, N of 1 – Using Your Voice to Speak Up for Health Services Research, where we will share more about the current fiscal and political environment and review tools for effective advocacy, including the online tool POPVOX, a nonpartisan advocacy platform meshing real-time legislative data with users’ personal stories and sentiment. The webinar will be held on Monday, March 18 at 3:30 p.m. ET, and is free for AcademyHealth members. Register here

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