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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Congressional Hearing on Autism Research

The Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform yesterday held a hearing, "Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders."

GAO's Marcia Crosse testified:
Eighty-four percent of the autism research projects funded by federal agencies had the potential to be duplicative. Of the 1,206 autism research projects funded by federal agencies from fiscal years 2008 through 2012, 1,018 projects were potentially duplicative because the projects were categorized to the same objectives in the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s (IACC) strategic plan. Funding similar research on the same topic is sometimes appropriate—for example, for purposes of replicating or corroborating results—but in other instances funding similar research may lead to unnecessary duplication. Each agency funded at least 1 autism research project in the same strategic plan objective as another agency and at least 4 agencies funded autism research in the same research area.

The IACC and federal agencies may have missed opportunities to coordinate and reduce the risk of duplicating effort and resources. GAO found that the IACC is not focused on the prevention of duplication, and its efforts to coordinate the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) autism research and monitor all federal autism activities were hindered by limitations with the data it collects. Apart from federal agencies’ participation on the IACC, there were limited instances of agency coordination, and the agencies did not have robust or routine procedures for monitoring federal autism activities.
Phillip Swarts reports at The Washington Times:
Rep. Gerry Connolly, Virginia Democrat, said the findings could be misused by those who want to cut vitally needed federal research programs.
“What you’re doing is playing into the hands of the people up here, willingly or not, who actually want to cut down on federal resources because ‘all federal spending is bad,’” said Mr. Connolly at a hearing on the federal response to autism by the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on government operations.
The comments prompted the panel’s chairman, Rep. John Mica, Florida Republican, to state that the hearing was for fact-finding only, to evaluate investigators’ claims.
“I just want the record to clearly reflect this isn’t an attempt to cut funds or do away with the research,” Mr. Mica said. “When an agency makes a statement like that, it gets our attention.”
ASAN expressed concern that the subcommittee did not invite testimony from autistic witnesses.