National Institutes of Health

Topics on this page: Summary of Activities that Continue | Summary of Contingency Staffing Plan

Summary of Activities that Continue

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) activities that will continue are largely centered on the ongoing operations at its biomedical research hospital, the NIH Clinical Center, to maintain safety and continue care of its patients. These patients are part of research focused on fostering fundamental creative discoveries, innovative research strategies, and improving human health. NIH will provide basic care services to protect the health of NIH animals as well as retain staff to safeguard ongoing experiments or operations, and facilities and infrastructure.

NIH will continue COVID-19 research, clinical activities, and grantee oversight to be supported through carryover supplemental funds. NIH will continue all COVID-19 initiatives, including support for Operation Warp Speed.

Summary of Contingency Staffing Plan

In the event of a lapse in appropriations, 4,708 (25%) of NIH staff will be retained. This includes 271 (1%) exempt staff whose activities or position are already funded or otherwise exempted, as well as 4,437 (24%) who are excepted given their activities are deemed necessary by implication, or for the safety of human life or protection of property.

Exempt Staff:

A total of 271 NIH staff will be exempt.  This includes two exempt NIH staff that are Presidentially-appointed; the Director of the NIH and Director of the National Cancer Institute. The remainder of 269 employees would be supported by unobligated balances (carryover) from no-year or multi-year accounts such as FY 2020 COVID-19 supplemental appropriations and recurring 21st Century Cures Act (CURES) allocations.  NIH will use the carryover funds to continue support for priority research projects, grants research oversight and contracting activities that avoid negative impacts that would occur from interruption.

Excepted Staff:

A total of 4,437 (24%) NIH staff are considered excepted and can legally continue their activities in the absence of appropriations. These staff fall into three categories; 1) those whose work is necessary for the safety of human life, 2) those whose work is necessary for the protection of property, and 3) those whose work is "necessarily implied" from the authorized continuation of other activities.

Excepted NIH staff will continue to perform vital tasks related to imminent threats to human health or life specifically by providing patient care. Patients receiving treatment at the NIH Clinical Center are participants in important investigational procedures, and often no other treatment options are available. Providing care to existing patients (inpatient and outpatient) will require the hospital to operate at least initially at approximately 90% of normal patient load. NIH will continue to provide the right amount and type of staff to ensure the proper care of its patients no matter the percent of patient load over time. The excepted staff in this category comprise the multidisciplinary patient care team needed for safe, effective and direct patient care and support. Excepted staff will also continue activities ensuring the protection of government research property, animals, and inanimate property. Examples include the care and feeding of any animals associated with research activities and maintaining research property used for on-going medical experiments. These staff will also be responsible for maintaining cell lines and other invaluable research materials.

Additionally, staff will also be considered and continue to work if their duties are necessary to protect ongoing NIH experiments or operations, or if they are needed for the orderly phase down and suspension of non-funded activities. For example, NIH will retain personnel to maintain computerized systems supporting research and clinical patient care. The majority of these excepted staff will maintain the hospital data network, clinical research information system, picture archiving and communications systems, radiology information system, and other components directly related to the electronic patient medical record. A smaller group of excepted staff will continue to operate elements of the National Library of Medicine data center that interact with external biomedical databases essential for the provision of non-Federal health care.

NIH has 226 Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Officers who will continue working under this exception.

Content created by Office of Budget (OB)
Content last reviewed on December 18, 2020