The "Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations Act" passed by the House of Representatives contains an eight million dollar targeted appropriation for the Autism Spectrum Disorders Research Program (ASDRP). The goal of this program, launched earlier this year, is to improve treatment and intervention for military families touched by autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This research would have the effect of benefiting all children with autism and their families.
If passed into law, the bill would mark the second year of funding for defense-funded research. In the Fiscal 2007 Defense Appropriations Act, Congress approved $7.5 million for ASDRP. The autism research program is administered as a Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), which currently is responsible for administering other Congressionally-targeted medical research programs in breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.
Autism Speaks Executive Vice President Peter Bell serves as Chair of the Integration Panel of the Department of Defense FY07 ASDRP. The Integration Panel recommends the program focus, assists in the program's policy development, recommends a research investment strategy, programmatically evaluates submitted research proposals, and provides input for dissemination of information on the program.
“This new funding is a critical next step for the ASDRP,” said Bell. “Our goal is to fund innovative research that will provide hope and lead to a cure for autism as rapidly as possible."
Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), co-chairs of the Coalition on Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E) worked tirelessly to secure funding for the program. C.A.R.E. now has 160 Members of Congress and has been credited with helping to significantly increase federal funding for autism initiatives. “The research directed by the Department of Defense (DoD) program will help military families with autistic children and benefit the general population as well. The DoD program seeks to enhance and supplement autism research already underway by medical, educational, healthcare and service professionals,” said Rep. Smith.
“Nobody sacrifices more for this country that our military personnel and their families,” Congressman Doyle observed. “The federal government has an obligation to find ways to help them deal with the challenges associated with an autistic family member. That's why Chris Smith and I have been working to establish this program and provide it with adequate funding.”
Final disposition of this funding waits until a Conference between the House and the Senate over the Fiscal 2008 Defense Appropriations bill. This could occur as late as November or December of this year.