TVC to NIH: Target Wasteful Spending First

The following is an open letter to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) following the impact of the sequester and the announcement that NIH would be making cuts across the board rather than targeting the wasteful and bizarre spending embedded within NIH's funding priorities.

Dr. Francis S. Collins
National Institutes of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20892

Dear Dr. Collins:

America is facing a real economic crisis -- a pandemic of government-wide spending that shows no signs of abatement, fuelled by a federal bureaucracy unwilling to care.

On June 21, 2012 when asked about sequestration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee your response was to threaten that every category of Nation Institutes of Health (NIH) research will ‘get a haircut’ if sequestration takes effect.

At no point in time did NIH come back with reasonable, rational responses to the sequester. Instead, your reaction was simple: scare tactics employed against the most defenseless beneficiaries of NIH research, and continued subsidies for the wasteful and bizarre funding research you have chosen to ignore.

On February 21, Congressional Quarterly published your statement, which reads in part that NIH will “try to prioritize to things that seem most promising, most critical to public health, but there’s no question there will be across-the-board damage to virtually everything.”

Across-the-board cuts! It is shameful that as the Director of NIH you are willing to actually cut vital cancer or Lyme disease research as a cynical and manipulative ploy. You are employing politically motivated scare tactics. We have been through this drill before. Bureaucrats and political operatives will claim they have to cut school lunches, shut down national monuments or parks and now airport security lines to meet the budget.

NIH does not need to cut a little bit off the top of everything. NIH needs to cut out the wasteful and bizarre spending that is siphoning off critical research dollars to questionable and politically-driven grants. You should not force sick children and the elderly to go to the back of a long line of grant recipients which includes truck stop prostitutes, porn sites and those trying to identify the “unknown” behavioral risks of collegiate drinking. Is this how you prioritize?

TVC has been tracking the waste at NIH for some time. We have publically released our first group of findings-- over half a billion dollars in waste (and I guarantee there is more). We plan to renew our multi-month campaign educating Congress on the waste and abuse masquerading as "science".

Dr Collins, since you, your colleagues at NIH, and the Obama Administration are clueless as to where you can come up with the sequester cuts let me offer to help you. You won’t need to throw any sick children or elderly under the bus. Below are a few grants that NIH deemed worthy of scarce research funds. This is just the tip of the iceberg:

  • Kim Fromme simply claimed, “little is known about the behavioral risks that have been associated with collegiate drinking,” and received $3,276,420 in NIH grants to find out more! Guess NIH never heard of Greek Week!
  • NIH favorites Jeffrey T. Parsons and Christian Grov, along with Jonathan Rendina (Kirchstein fellow) have received well over $12.25 million for sexual pet projects including (but not limited to) “Pillow Talk” and “SCORE”. These three researchers are generally interested in sexual compulsivity, sex/drug use diaries, sex parties, and bathhouse participation among “highly sexually active” gay/bisexual men. Calling his work a “niche,” Grov was also involved in a penis size satisfaction study as an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellow.
  • Positive reinforcement is a great way to quit smoking. Paul Michael Cinciripini has conducted $343,487 worth of studies on the effectiveness of porn as the reward for smoking cessation.
  • How likely are you to experience excessive noise exposure on the New York City subway? NIH researcher Robyn Gershon spent three years and $472,286 (including Stimulus funds) trying to figure out the effects of subway noise in New York City.
  • After conducting a “needs assessment” Dr. Simon Rosser found that gay men required porn for them to complete online HIV prevention education. The Men’s Internet Study (MINTS) for HIV Prevention has spent over $5 million so far, creating a porn site (SexPulse). NIH Director Dr. Collins has defended this website because it takes “into account specific nuances of [the gay] culture and language.”
  • Over $90 million in grants to the People’s Republic of China -- one of the principal holders of our national debt.

Perhaps the next NIH research project should involve talking with a sample of American taxpayers who manage revenue shortfalls in their own household budgets by prioritizing functions and activities and reducing those with the lowest impact. No one in the household must starve, no one needs to be cast into the cold darkness without food and clothing.

Sometimes the simplest lessons are the most profound even though they may be lacking in the dramatic flair of NIH’s predictable catastrophic narrative about what will happen without full funding or funding increases.

In a political environment dotted with GSA spending in Las Vegas, the Secret Service splurging on Colombian prostitutes, and other wasteful government spending, I still remain mystified as to why the National Institutes of Health remains a sacred cow -- or why the hammer of sequestration must fall on the most defenseless rather than on the truly useless and wasteful -- all at taxpayer expense.


Andrea Lafferty
Traditional Values Coalition