NIH: No, we don't really know where your tax dollars are going

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is a subsidiary organization of the Department of Health and Human Services. It has an annual budget in excess of $30B and is responsible for a variety of biomedical research projects. As part of their charter they provide funding (from your tax dollars) to a dizzying array of federal agencies which conduct this type of testing. Which agencies are those? If you ask the folks at the NIH they’re really not sure. (Free Beacon)

The National Institutes of Health has no system in place to track which federal facilities are receiving taxpayer dollars.

A Freedom of Information Act request obtained by the Washington Free Beacon revealed that the health agency, which has a budget of over $30 billion, does not keep track of government agencies that receive funding.

White Coat Waste, a nonprofit organization that conducts oversight over the NIH’s animal research spending, requested a list of federal facilities that currently have approval to experiment on animals.

In order to receive federal funding from the Public Health Service, institutions must apply for an Animal Welfare Assurance showing they will comply with the Animal Welfare Act. Institutions with active assurances receive federal funds to conduct research on live animals.

This certainly sounds like bad news on the surface but I have to wonder whether or not this apparently lack of accountability is as real as is being portrayed. White Coat Waste has been investigating the NIH over issues with live animal experimentation in research projects. (And some of them sound pretty horrible.) When they submitted a FOIA request seeking all of the agencies receiving federal funding for this type of work, the agency came back and told them that they had no records which would satisfy the request. Is that true? Or do they just not want to release the information?

I’m a bit skeptical because I’ve been through the FOIA mill myself at the state government level in the past and been informed that there “are no records.” Unless you’ve got plenty of time and significant legal resources behind you it’s pretty hard to work your way through that maze in an effort to prove them wrong. I’m not saying that’s definitely the case with the NIH, but simply that I have reason to be suspicious.

So we can either take the agency at their word and believe that they’re not tracking billions of taxpayer dollars or that they are intentionally hiding information from the public in matters which are obviously not of a sensitive, national security nature. Either way, White Coat Waste has cracked open the door to something which stinks and deserves further attention. And on a related note, NIH falls under the same umbrella of Health and Human Services as the Center for Disease Control. That’s the group that wants to investigate “gun violence as a health issue” for you. Feeling more confident yet?

National Institutes of Health (NIH)