Senate Committee to CDC: Leave NIOSH Alone

The Senate appropriations committee that funds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has told the administration that its reorganization of the agency is not to affect the status of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The appropriators attached report language to the 2005 appropriations bill directing CDC "to make no changes to NIOSH's current operating procedures and organizational structure and ensure that no funds or personnel will be transferred from NIOSH to other components of CDC by means other than traditional reprogramming of funds."

The appropriations committee also told CDC to "maintain the status quo with respect to the direct reporting relationship of the NIOSH director to the CDC director."

In a rare display of consensus, a wide spectrum of members of the health and safety community have told lawmakers they oppose the CDC reorganization because of fears that it will push NIOSH down a notch in the federal bureaucracy, diminishing the institute's stature.

It is far from certain what effect this language will have on the CDC reorganization and NIOSH's future place within the agency. The language has not been approved by the full Senate, nor reconciled with the House bill that does not contain similar provisions.

Moreover, the intent of the report language is not clear, according to Aaron Trippler, director of government affairs for the American Industrial Hygiene Association, an organization that has expressed concerns about the NIOSH shift.

"I think there's a lot of confusion about this right now," Trippler commented. "If the Senate committee wanted to be more specific they could have come right out and said they want CDC to stop the NIOSH reorganization, but they hemmed and hawed and it's not clear what they want."

A staff member of the Senate committee sought to clarify the intent of the report language. "The intent of the senators is that the status quo is maintained with respect to NIOSH's place within CDC," said the staffer. "CDC reorganization is OK, but NIOSH must be left out of the reorganization."

Senate appropriators showed another kind of support for NIOSH, as it approved funding of $294.6 million for fiscal year 2005, compared to the president's request of $278.6 million. NIOSH's budget in fiscal year 2004 was approximately $277 million.

Susan Randolph, MSN, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN, is president of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN). She said her group is "very pleased that the Senate committee demonstrated they recognize that the CDC reorganization's impact on NIOSH could significantly weaken and diminish the importance of occupational health and safety. NIOSH was created as the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. NIOSH's role should not be diminished by its placement as part of a CDC sub-group."

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