Let’s put this in some perspective. Secretary Sebelius is one step down from the President of the United States in the Executive Branch of government.
The IACC is already chaired by the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel. Dr. Insel holds a rather high level position to be chair of this committee, indicating a strong commitment to the IACC. Dr. Collins would be, in effect, Dr. Insel’s boss. His presence at the IACC meeting is significant.
The White House sent Mike Stratmanis is chief of staff to Valerie Jarrett, who is one of President Obama’s senior advisors. Mr. Stratmanis is also the father of an autistic child.
The Federal members of the IACC include a number of people at the director level in the NIH and elsewhere.
I think it is safe to say that autism research has the attention of the U.S. government.
The IACC is the focus of a lot of scrutiny and a lot of pressure. Given the importance of the IACC’s mission, some pressure and scrutiny is very much warranted. I think one can be critical of the IACC and its members—I’ve done so here on this blog. But, I think it is important for the discussion to remain respectful and factual. Often the discussion has, well, gone past those boundaries.
The IACC and Dr. Insel became part of the “enemy” to many in the online parent community when they decided to not fund vaccine-causation research.
Yes, autism research and the IACC have the attention of powerful people. This was very important last year when the President allocated large amounts of economic stimulus money to autism research. The fact that the IACC had a Strategic Plan in place to justify this expenditure should go down as one of the successes of that committee. Without the Plan, it is very possible that the Stimulus money might not have been applied to autism research.
Next year comes a major date for the IACC. The Combating Autism Act has, as most governmental programs do, a “sunset clause”. Read the Act and you will find this phrase repeated: “Sunset- This section shall not apply after September 30, 2011.”
Read the proposed budget for autism research—the final year is 2011.
I doubt that the IACC will be dissolved and that autism funding will cease in 2011. I believe autism research is a good investment for the American people and should continue. But it is time to admit to ourselves that we, the autism communities, are not entitled to this support. It can be taken away or reduced.