Freedom of Information Act Office
IC Directors' Meeting Highlights
July 13, 2009
|Subject:||IC Directors Meeting Highlights—July 9, 2009|
Use of ARRA RMS Funds – Larry Tabak, OD/NIDCR; Colleen Barros, OM/OD
Dr. Tabak provided an overview of key considerations when determining the optimal use of ARRA funds for RMS purposes. It was noted that organizations, like NIH, that are normally supported centrally have some functions that must be funded to implement the ARRA legislation. At the same time, there is an opportunity to fund infrastructure needed indirectly related to ARRA. Key questions center on whether ARRA RMS funds should be used to “buy down” selected future IT infrastructure investments, and if so, how much?
The amount of ARRA RMS funds available is approximately $160 million. In order to determine how best to utilize these funds, a budget process was implemented which began with a request to Central Service Organizations for funds required to implement ARRA, as well as those needed for Enterprise-wide IT and infrastructure support. Resulting IT requests were provided to the ITWG for review and prioritization. All were reviewed by the Acting Deputy Director. The overall funding recommendations were then reviewed by the MBWG. The MBWG recommendation was to fund infrastructure needs at the recommended levels.
Generally, all ARRA RMS costs are split among the OD/ICs in proportion to ARRA research appropriations/allocations. Exceptions include CSR, DEAS, ORS Digital Documentation Conversion, and Transhare. There was a question raised why the Common Fund does not also contribute to RMS expenses? It was explained that the Common Fund is not an IC so that its overhead administrative costs are covered under overall NIH Enterprise costs.
It was noted that ICs may differ in the amount of the RMS funds they have available, and may consequently have variable needs regarding the use of ARRA Funds for RMS purposes. In fact, it might be financially a burden from some ICs to use their ARRA RMS funds in the manner proposed. Concerns were also expressed that an investment in the IT Enterprise system now, may not reduce costs in outyears due to the substantial costs of on-going development as opposed to reduced costs usually expected during operations and/or maintenance phases.
A vote was called, and the large majority of ICs supported the use of ARRA RMS funds as recommended. It was proposed that the next steps would involve reviewing ARRA RMS spending plans that are due to OB on July 10th, to determine optimal funding options across ICs. However, it was also recommended that particular attention would need to paid to ICs for which the proposed plan may pose a financial hardship.
Colleen Barros described an exercise conducted recently across the NIH examining the 3 Rs authorities: retention, recruitment, and relocation bonuses. On May 27th a memo was sent by OBM to all Departments, requesting an examination of whether the implementation of these authorities was consistent with agency missions. On June 9th, Secretary Sebelius directed an evaluation of these authorities across OPDIVs.
As a result, OHR reviewed cases from June 2008 to June 2009, and initially found 336 3Rs cases that warranted closer scrutiny. Additional justifications provided in IC responses reduced the number of nonconcurable 3Rs cases to 39 (30 retention and 9 recruitment bonuses) NIH-wide. For the 30 retention cases, future payments must cease immediately, while for recruitment bonuses no further action will be taken, given that these were paid in a lump sum. It was recommended that in view of problematic cases representing less than 2% of the total number of cases, it did not appear that any restrictive guidelines would need to be implemented in response.
OHR is in the process of revising the 3R Guidance and will be meeting with IC EOs in the near future. This language will also be included in a written response to the Secretary describing the results of the NIH exercise and resulting corrective action.
Delayed Grant Awards.
Dr. Alving expressed a NIH-wide concern that the pipeline for ARRA grant awards has been clogged for several weeks. Marin Allen reported that OS indicated earlier in the day that grants for August would be released today, (i.e., July 9th). Moreover, concern was also expressed that the closeout of end-of-year FY2009 funds together with the processing of ARRA funding will pose logistical challenges which need to be circumvented in upcoming weeks.