With the $85 billion spending cuts now in effect, it is time for FDA and other agencies to adapt. The 2013 impact will be condensed into the next seven months because the federal fiscal year ends on October 1. While few details have been made available, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. said in an interview on Thursday that she did not anticipate FDA having to furlough workers and emphasized that the majority of the effects would not be felt in the short term. However, Hamburg estimated that the cuts will result in more than 2,000 fewer food safety inspections: "[C]learly we will be able to provide less of the oversight functions and we won't be able to broaden our reach to new facilities either, so inevitably that increases risk." FDA may renew efforts to implement a user fee program for the food industry to offset this hit.
President Barack Obama has vowed to continue to work with Congress to reach a compromise that would replace the cuts with a more balanced budget plan. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee introduced a bill yesterday that would fund the government with $982 billion through the end of the fiscal year, assuming the sequester cuts would remain in effect. While largely focused on the Department of Defense ($518 billion) and military construction and Veterans Affairs ($71.9 billion), the general provisions maintain the funding level of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012. The bill is scheduled to reach the House floor tomorrow.