by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When Congress meddles in how federal agencies set research priorities and disburse grants, the scientific community is, understandably, distraught. But Congress is responsible for rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies, which sets up a fundamental conflict.
The administration’s spending should come under special scrutiny when bureaucrats claim they don’t have enough money to protect public health; while complaining of lack of funds, bureaucrats are squandering already allocated funds on research that is the subject of inter-agency squabbles.
In a concerted campaign, administration officials have bashed Congress for failing to provide funds needed to respond to the Zika-virus outbreak. …
… With NIH and several of its HHS siblings crying poverty, Congress should exercise its oversight function and ask how NIH is spending the rest of its budget and what guides those priorities.
To be sure, politicians should not make decisions about individual grant proposals, but they are responsible for oversight of federal agencies: setting overall priorities; combating waste, fraud and abuse; and putting a stop to inappropriate intransigence.
Especially when research appears to be flawed and to have a policy agenda, the Congress should certainly be involved. But some federal bureaucrats seem to disagree.