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NIH Issues Guidance on Implementing Reduced Salary Cap

January 27. 2012—The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Jan. 20 issued a guidance notice related to the salary cap enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74).  Division F, Section 203, of the appropriations law reduced the salary cap on NIH, AHRQ and SAMHSA extramural awards from Executive Level I ($199,700) to Executive Level II ($179,700). The cap also was extended to all HHS funding agencies.

The AAMC strongly opposed the lowering of the salary cap.  A group letter organized by the AAMC and sent to House and Senate appropriators Oct. 11, 2011, said, “The extramural salary cap particularly disadvantages the most productive investigators who likely dedicate the majority of their time in research and who have a sustained track record in breakthrough discoveries and will have a chilling effect on gifted new investigators. Moreover, it disproportionately affects physician investigators and serves as a deterrent to their recruitment into research careers at a time when the United States is committed to improving the health of the nation and remaining globally competitive in research and technology.”

The NIH guidance notice states, "Since this reduction was included in the law signed December 23, 2011, implementation of the lower level is effective with FY2012 awards where the initial Issue Date of the award is on/after [Jan. 23,] 2011. For FY2012 awards issued on/before December 22, 2011 (competing and non-competing), the effective salary limitation remains at Executive Level 1, $199,700."

NIH has posted a list of the 2,114 FY 2012 awards that were issued on or before Dec. 22 and thus are subject to the higher cap level. Non-competing awards with issue dates on or before Dec.  22 will not be recalculated to reflect the lower cap. Carrying over previous years’ funds to support salaries will remain at the salary limitation levels in effect at the time those awards were issued.

A statutory salary cap on NIH grant awards has been enacted every year since 1990.  A summary of the annual level is available on the NIH website.


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806