The American Association for Dental Research (AADR) has announced its support of the Investing for the People Act (HR 2021), which has passed the House Budget Committee and would raise federal discretionary spending caps in fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The AADR calls the legislation a critical first step in the dialogue on preventing $55 billion in harmful cuts to federal research and public health programs at the end of the current fiscal year.
“The spending levels reflected in the proposal are more realistic and reasonable for the coming years and, importantly, they will allow our nation’s indispensable federal research agencies to carry out their respective missions,” said AADR chief executive officer Christopher H. Fox, DMD, DMSc, noting that these agencies include the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Health and the Division of Oral Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Shortchanging these programs could force cuts to research aimed at improving the oral health of the nation, reducing the societal costs of dental care, training the next generation of researchers and enhancing the evidence base for the dental profession,” said Fox. “Non-defense discretionary programs continue to operate at a loss after years of declining purchasing power due to inflation, sequestration, and budget cuts.”
The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) implemented austerity-level spending caps, according to the House Budget Committee, which adds that defense and non-defense investments will face a $125 billion cut from 2019 levels in upcoming budgets. HR 2021, the committee adds, sets out a two-year budget and lifts the caps on discretionary spending for 2020 and 2021, which are the final two years of the BCA.
“The Investing for the People Act lays out a responsible framework for the country that ensures we make the needed investments for American families, our economy, and our security,” said committee chair John Yarmuth (D-KY), sponsor of the bill. “By moving this bill forward, we will bring responsible governing back to the budget process, avoid uncertainty and the unrelenting threats of a government shutdown, and meet our obligations to the American people.”
With the prospect of these cuts being avoided, the AADR also is joining with the ADA in asking the House Defense Appropriations Committee to keep current funding levels for military dental research centered on head and facial trauma and oral disease at $10 million in 2020. Military dental research is unique and not duplicated by any other federal dental program. In fiscal year 2019, it received a $4 million increase, which was its first increase in four years.
“Over 42% of injured service members have had wounds to the head and face. In the last decade alone, over 4,000 service members experienced facial injuries,” the AADR and ADA wrote in an April 9 letter to committee chair Pete Visclosky (D-Ind) and ranking member Ken Calvert (R-Calif). “These injuries cause significant physical and emotional challenges for the service member, often resulting in difficulties eating, breathing, and speaking.”
The letter noted other benefits to military dental research, including progress against antibiotic resistance, which affects about 2 million people and kills about 23,000 people each year. Also, previous research has led to innovations such as an anti-plaque chewing gum that significantly reduces oral disease, enabling military personnel to carry out their duties. Overall, the AADR and ADA said, military dental research saves lives and improves quality of life.
“AADR is grateful to Congress for its work in previous years to pass bipartisan budget deals that have led to much needed investments for these programs, and we urge Congress to do its part again to avert these dangerous and counterproductive cuts,” said Fox. “AADR hopes that our nation’s policymakers will seriously consider House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth’s proposal and work in earnest with the White House to enact a bipartisan budget deal to raise the caps as soon as possible.”