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In a letter to Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey, Harvard president Drew Faust joined 15 fellow leaders of the state’s top hospitals and universities in urging legislative action to avert “an unprecedented reduction in discretionary spending…scheduled to occur on January 2, when sequestration will cut $110 billion from defense and non-defense discretionary budgets in FY13 alone.” The so-called fiscal cliff to which the letter alludes can be averted only if Republicans and Democrats in Congress succeed in crafting a bipartisan compromise on contentious federal budget issues.

Federally sponsored research and development is an important engine of economic growth. The letter notes that

federal dollars that flow to our institutions based on the merit of peer-reviewed proposals drive research, expanding knowledge and enabling the development of inventions, treatments, and cures. At the same time, ideas generated by our creative faculty, researchers, clinicians, and students spin off into the larger Massachusetts economy and lead to the creation of new products, businesses, and jobs. This ecosystem of innovation is a driving force behind technologies and therapies that are at the heart of national public health and economic well-being, as well as advancements that are improving global health.

If sequestration is not avoided, the letter warns, the cuts—as much as $3.1 billion in federal research and development sponsorship in Massachusetts during a five-year period—may drive “a generation of young talent to other fields” and will jeopardize the role of the United States as “the world leader in research and innovation.”

Read the letter.