Rep. Mike Turner (OH-10) Introduces EMPOWER NIH Act

As the Senior Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, I recently introduced the EMPOWER NIH Act to provide critical oversight and full transparency of all grantees and subgrantees receiving federal funds for research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The U.S. had blind faith that all federal dollars for health research went to fight disease. However, the pandemic exposed how American taxpayers might have unknowingly funded dangerous research that put global health at risk. My bill, the EMPOWER NIH Act, would create necessary oversight, transparency, and accountability measures to the federal grant process. By requiring surprise inspections and full reporting on use of funds, the EMPOWER NIH Act would apply President Reagan’s ‘trust but verify’ philosophy to research at home and abroad. We have a responsibility to protect our researchers, our institutions, our citizens, and our nation, and this legislation takes an important step to safeguard our future. 

The introduction of this legislation follows confirmation that the NIH, through the NIAID, awarded grants from 2014 to 2019 to the nonprofit EcoHealth, which gave those research dollars to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). It is believed that the WIV performed Gain-of-Function experimentation on coronaviruses, a risky area of research that was banned by NIH at the time.

According to the NIH, the NIH spends $41.7 billion on research through almost 50,000 grants annually. Currently, inspections to research facilities are limited to only grantees and upon the filing of a formal complaint.

The EMPOWER NIH Act would provide:

  • Oversight: Every grantee and subgrantee receiving a federal award from the National Institutes of Health must undergo an annual surprise in-person inspection.
  • Transparency: NIH will be required to submit a report annually documenting the inspections and documenting the full grant proposals of each research project.
  • Accountability: Grantees and subgrantees who fail their inspection will lose their eligibility for 5 years, while those who knowingly impede the inspection for any reason will lose their eligibility for at least 15 years.

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