The current organization and administration of federal programs that support research in rehabilitation science and engineering are such that each program has a unique, worthwhile, and complementary mission. CDC investigates prevention and secondary conditions, NSF and NCMRR research basic engineering and medical rehabilitation, respectively, NIDRR focuses on disability and the whole person in the environment, and VA is able to tailor its research agenda to the needs of its constituents. This represents a sound spectrum of rehabilitation research. In general, weaknesses in the spectrum are not due to inappropriate priorities or other problems within the programs themselves, but rather to a general insufficiency in the magnitude of the overall program of research, its limited visibility, and lack of effective coordination of the overall constellation of programs. Thus, correcting this situation will require additional research activities, greater visibility within the administrative structure, and improved coordination. Any potential reorganization or restructuring of the rehabilitation science and engineering activities of the federal government should be designed to achieve these objectives and also pass the test of implementability, with an eye towards long term, effective function for the foreseeable future.
Due consideration was given to a spectrum of options for improving the current situation and achieving the objectives of expanded research, enhanced visibility, and improved coordination. Of the many options considered, three of which are described above, Option 3 was determined to be the most reasonable, appropriate, and effective one for addressing the identified needs for improved coordination and enhanced visibility for federal research in rehabilitation science and engineering. The committee therefore recommends that this option be implemented as a means of enhancing the overall federal effort in rehabilitation research and improving the health, quality of life, and productivity of people with disabling conditions (see Recommendation 10.1 below).
RECOMMENDATION 10.1 The committee recommends that the NIDRR program of activities and its annual appropriation of approximately $70 million should be moved from the U.S. Department of Education to HHS and serve as the foundation for the creation of a new Agency on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (ADRR). ADRR would assume the tasks that were formerly assigned to the Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR) and be given enhanced authority through review of disability and rehabilitation research plans and control of funding for interagency collaboration. To further support and enhance the overall federal effort, all major