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NIAID Funding Opportunity Planning and the Budget Cycle

NIAID's ability to plan funding opportunities for extramural researchers ties into the budget planning cycle for each fiscal year. Learn more in the sections below.

Table of Contents

Planning Research Opportunities

Like other NIH institutes, NIAID must at times promote basic and applied research in scientific areas that pose an emerging opportunity or need.

Unlike many other institutes, we must also respond to emerging diseases, such as MERS, West Nile virus, and pandemic flu, for which the public expects us to develop countermeasures.

We meet these needs by issuing requests for applications (RFA), program announcements (PA), or solicitations, some with money set aside for the grants or contracts.

Although much of our budget pays for investigator-initiated grants—i.e., PIs submit an application in a topic of their choice—a portion of our extramural dollars pays for targeted research. Keep in mind that even when we target funds for research in a scientific area, the investigator designs the project that meets NIAID's programmatic needs.

  • Targeted research supports grants and contracts and respond to these announcements.
    • Requests for applications. We fund RFAs from their own pot of money by setting aside funds to pay for the resulting grants.
    • Solicitations. Requests proposals for a contract to meet a specific need, such as the development of an animal model. Solicitations include requests for proposals (RFP) and broad agency announcements (BAA).
  • NIAID also announces program announcements, initiatives that support investigator-initiated research. Most do not set aside funds, though some, called program announcement with set-aside funds do. In general, PAs cover a broader field than do RFAs.
  • See NIAID's Budget and Concept Planning Flowchart for a graphic of the process.
  • For more information on applying through an initiative, see Choose Approach and Find FOAs in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Concepts May Turn Into Initiatives

Together with focus groups from the extramural research community, NIAID starts planning initiatives to address research opportunities and needs. These ideas are called concepts at this stage, which starts two years before we award the resulting grants or contracts.

Then at its biannual planning retreats, NIAID executives discuss which concepts to publish as initiatives—RFAs, PAs, or solicitations. Staff spend the next six months refining the concepts.

According to law, experts in the field, usually Council members, must approve a concept before we can announce an initiative. Council acts as a board of directors, exerting approval authority for moving a concept forward.

Initiatives that do move on become RFAs and PAs published in the NIH Guide and funding opportunity announcements in, or solicitations published in FedBizOpps: Federal Business Opportunities and sometimes in the Guide.

Council Helps Shape Concepts

Council's lay and scientific members also review, comment on, and approve an initiative's characteristics, such as budget levels, mechanism (e.g., grant or contract, grant type), and other key features.

At the subcommittee meetings that take place during the Council meeting, program staff present an outline of a proposed concept for Council's scrutiny. (NIAID has three Council subcommittees, one for each of its extramural program divisions.)

For each concept, the subcommittee looks deeply at its scientific merit, relative priority, appropriate budget, and funding mechanism. Council's regular and ad hoc members approve, disapprove, or suggest modifications to each concept.

After fine-tuning by Council and the research community, Council-approved concepts become published PAs, RFAs, or solicitations depending on their Institute-wide priority and the amount of funds we have to spend for that fiscal year.

Approved Concepts Posted Afterward

We post Council-approved concepts at Concepts: Potential Opportunities to show you which areas of science are of highest priority to NIAID.

While not all concepts become initiatives, they highlight NIAID's research interests and are good topics for investigator-initiated applications.

Initiatives Become RFAs, Solicitations, and PAs

Concepts selected to be published as initiatives become part of NIH's budget plan, which is later incorporated into the President's Budget proposal to Congress.

NIAID publishes the NIAID Funding Opportunities List based on Council-approved concepts from the previous year. Both the President's Budget proposal and initiative publication occur one to two years before we award the grants or contracts.

For more information, see Concepts May Turn Into Initiatives and the Choose Approach and Find FOAs section of the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Planning and Budget Cycle

Below we outline the federal government's annual budget process.

Congress Provides Direction and Funding

Public laws—bills or resolutions passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President—provide NIAID with the authority and funds to carry out programs.

They are called by their popular names, e.g., USA Patriot Act, and congressional sessions and chronological law numbers, e.g., P.L. 107-56.

Congress sets limits on the purpose for which NIAID spends funds, the amount of funds we spend, and the period of time when we can use or reserve funds. At least every three years, Congress passes authorizations that enable NIAID to spend money for designated programs. Title 42, Chapter 6A of the United States Code includes NIH's authorizing legislation.

Congress funds NIH's programs and operations in annual appropriations. Each NIH appropriations bill limits how federal grant, cooperative agreement, and contract funds can be spent. See NIH Appropriations Information for annual data.

NIAID Budget and Planning

Budgets, authorizations, appropriations, continuing resolutions: what does it all mean? It's a long and winding road from planning how to spend federal tax dollars to funding research grants.

Though Congress allocates our funds, agencies get the ball rolling well before a fiscal year starts. NIAID works on three budget cycles at a time.

Figure 1. NIAID's Budget and Concept Planning Flowchart

Graphic: Events shown in this flowchart are described fully in the text below.

NIAID submits a budget request that moves up our chain of command for further tweaking, first to NIH and then to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The request includes an annual performance plan describing goals for the requested funds and a performance report of how last year's goals were met.

HHS forwards its request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which reports to the President. OMB works closely with NIH and other agencies to create the budget the President proposes to Congress on the first Monday in February. After that, the President's Budget triggers the legislative side to act.

Before There's a Budget

In the beginning, there's authorization. Before a federal agency such as NIAID or NIH can spend money in any area, a congressional committee must authorize its program.

That means NIAID can't simply decide to award grants to design space vehicles! Our authorization has implications for politically sensitive areas too, such as restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research.

Budget Resolutions Lay a Foundation

Action starts in Congress after the President submits a budget request. Congress examines the President's Budget in detail but does not actually vote on it.

Meanwhile, House and Senate budget committees consider the President's Budget as they prepare their own budget resolution.

This legislation broadly outlines spending categories, targets, revenues, and spending estimates (also known as outlays) for the next fiscal year. It also guides the appropriations committees that set funding levels for federal agencies.

See Table 1 for the congressional committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over NIH.

Table 1. Authorizations, Appropriations, and Oversight Committees and Subcommittees for NIH.

Type Senate House of Representatives

Appropriations Set the Dollars

Appropriations bills provide the budget authority to make financial obligations.

Setting funding levels is the job of the appropriations committees. Both House and Senate have 13 appropriations subcommittees that draft funding legislation for NIH and other federal agencies.

After Congress passes a budget resolution, the Senate and the House hold committee and subcommittee hearings on the proposed President's Budget . For example, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions authorizing committee and the Senate Committee on Appropriations hold hearings for NIH.

  • At these hearings, they get analyses, information, and estimates of the budget and economy from the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Agency representatives, such as the NIH director, must defend the President's Budget proposal at the hearings.

With this information, the two branches of Congress create their 13 appropriations bills (they may revise authorizing bills too).

The full appropriations committees may modify the bills before sending them to the Senate for a vote. The appropriations bills must reflect the congressional budget resolution.

Appropriations start each year in the House, with the Senate beginning its work after passage of a House bill. Funds from budget committees are divvied up to the appropriations committees as 13 separate budget bills.

To resolve differences between the Senate and House, bills go to 13 conference committees. Both bodies vote on each bill, and the President either signs or vetoes each one unless the budget goes through a reconciliation process.

In that case, authorizing committees resolve differences in conference. Both the House and Senate vote on a single bill and send it to the President by October 16. The President either signs or vetoes the bill.

When We Don't Get a Budget

Though the fiscal year begins on October 1, Congress often does not pass the budget by that date.

Congress usually passes a continuing resolution (CR) to tide us over for a few weeks or months while it irons out budget wrinkles. We often get a series of CRs that can last into January or later.

A CR often funds programs at the level of the previous fiscal year's appropriations or at the level of the bill either the House or the Senate passed for the current fiscal year, whichever is lower.

While under a CR, NIAID:

  • Can make only a limited number of new grant awards.
  • May fund existing awards at a reduced level until the budget passes.
  • Must fund our existing programs.
  • Is prohibited by law from launching new initiatives or activities outside the scope of the existing authorization.

Finally... Funds

Working in reverse order from the budget request, OMB apportions funds to HHS, which allocates money to NIH. In turn, NIH forwards NIAID its share.

Our budget level determines our paylines and the number of awards we can make during a fiscal year. For NIAID's latest budget information, go to Paylines and Funding.

An agency may receive additional funds outside of the regular budget cycle.

Congress may approve a supplemental appropriation if it determines that an existing appropriation bill is insufficient or decides to fund activities not covered by the existing bill. For example, NIAID received biodefense funding in FY 2003 from a supplemental appropriation.

Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year

Subscribe to Email Alerts to be notified when we set or revise fiscal year paylines.

Our Paylines and Funding pages show the data we have during the many changes that take place during the fiscal year.

At the start of the fiscal year. If we don't have a budget, we don't have fiscal year paylines yet.

When we begin the fiscal year operating under a continuing resolution, we pay some grants using interim paylines. These are not true paylines because they are not based on budget calculations. An interim payline is simply an administrative measure that lets us get some top-scoring grants out the door while we await our appropriation.

After we have a budget. Our budget office calculates how much money we have to fund new investigator-initiated applications based on the new appropriation. Two factors play a big role in this calculation:

  • Most of the money is already accounted for. It pays for existing grants, which are on average a four-year commitment as well as, to a much smaller extent, the set-asides mentioned above.
  • Budgeting for incoming investigator-initiated applications is tricky because we don't know the quality of applications that will come to us from future review cycles.

As a result, we set paylines conservatively to make sure we will have enough funds to pay high-quality grants for the entire year and meet any congressional mandates that may arise, for example, for AIDS or Ebola.

Because the timing of our annual appropriation varies each year, we cannot give you exact dates for incoming payline information.

Ending the fiscal year. Because we set the paylines with some wiggle room, we usually have money to spend as we approach the end of the fiscal year.

For R01s, we keep our initial payline until early August. At that point, we start funding applications nominated for selective pay and applications that missed the payline until all remaining money runs out.

For grant types other than the R01, we may change a payline mid-year. So if you apply for one of those, check the payline online after you get your summary statement and before you talk to your program officer about your prospects for funding.

Because of this fluid situation, our pages reflect different information at different times of the fiscal year. We update the pages using the following cycle:

  1. The new fiscal year starts on October 1. Typically, we don't have a budget right away.
    • NIAID sets very conservative administrative (interim) Paylines for R01s and other grant types.
    • Because these interim paylines are not fiscal year paylines and are temporary, we don't send Email Alerts for them.
    • A continuing resolution is one of many factors that can delay our ability to set paylines for the fiscal year.
  2. After NIH gets a budget, it takes our budget office several weeks at a minimum to crunch the numbers. Don't expect to see actual paylines or Financial Management Plan details immediately.
  3. Over the next several weeks or even months, we post NIAID Paylines for all grant types.
    • First we usually get the R01 payline—or paylines if we have a separate payline for new investigators.
    • The R01 fiscal year paylines typically remain in effect until the end of the fiscal year.
    • We get other fiscal year paylines later; they may change at any time.
    • We send an Email Alert to subscribers whenever we set or revise our fiscal year paylines.
  4. Around the end of August, we archive the paylines at Archive of Final NIAID Paylines by Fiscal Year.
  5. The fiscal year ends on September 30. See step 1 above.

For more resources and advice, see the Application Tools for All About Grants Tutorials.

Last Updated March 31, 2016

Last Reviewed September 18, 2015