Republicans question into NIH’s billion dollar PR spending spree at taxpayer expense

Republicans have launched in investigation into the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) use of public relations and communications consulting services valuing nearly a billion dollars.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia), and Subcommittee on Health Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-Kentucky) initiated the probe by sending letters to 10 public relations companies that were main contractors for NIH. 

According to the Republicans, the NIH is outsourcing public relations work to private companies.

“Public Information and Communication Services” (PICS) to a network of 10 public relations companies. The contract is structured as a multiple award indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract with a base one-year contract and four option years where the NIH pays the companies as it uses their services. The contract had an initial funding ceiling of $500 million.  In 2021, the contract amount was doubled to $1 billion due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the terms of the contract, the 10 public relations firms provide the NIH and its Institutes with “a full range of comprehensive communication, evaluation, and social marketing goods and services. This scope of work includes developing “messages and branding programs” with companies providing “a wide range of professional services.”   

Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia) and Brett Guthrie (R-Kentucky)

Historical Background provided by the Republicans:

Public health agencies’ use of public relations agencies and the size of those contracts have been controversial in the past. 

In 2020, HHS’s Office of Inspector General found that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) senior leaders did not comply with federal acquisition requirements and did not properly manage personal services contracts related to media consulting for the CMS Administrator. 

In 2013, a Committee investigation discovered that between 2006 and 2012 the National Cancer Institute (NCI) alone spent over $381 million on public relation operations.  This was in addition to $44.9 million NCI spent on its in-agency public communications office. 

The main goals of the investigation are twofold:

  • Determine how the NIH uses contract public relations firms and whether these are an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars
  • Identify whether the money was spent to silence scientific debate or pursue a political agenda 

Read the letters at the links listed below.

BETAH Associates

BLH Technologies



Fors Marsh Group

Hager Sharp

Hendall, Inc.

IQ Solutions

Lumina Corps (formerly NOVA Research Company)

Palladian Partners

Scientific Consulting Group

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3 thoughts on “Republicans question into NIH’s billion dollar PR spending spree at taxpayer expense”

  1. Must’ve paid for all those PSAs imploring us to all get the jab, including our young children. I still see them on TV and hear them on the radio.

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