Yesterday the Senate managed passage of its first so-called “minibus” appropriation bill – a combination of FY12 Agriculture Appropriation; Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriation; and Transportation-HUD Appropriations bills — and retained the cuts to the FY12 budget of the National Science Foundation budget we covered back when the bill was first approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Those cuts would amount to a 2.4 percent reduction to NSF’s budget, a cut of nearly $162 million compared to the agency’s FY11 level. In addition, the Senate minibus includes cuts to both NASA (2.8 percent reduction, or $509 million less than FY11) and NIST (9.3 percent or $70.1 million less than FY11).
Though the House hasn’t passed its versions of all three appropriations bills, it will nevertheless go forward with a conference with the Senate on the minibus (technically, the minibus is based on the FY12 Agriculture Appropriation, which the House did manage to pass back in June — the other two bills have been added to the Agriculture bill). House conferees will use CJS and Transportation-HUD bills approved by the House Appropriations committee, but not approved by the full House, as the basis for their negotiations with the Senate. House appropriators approved essentially level funding for NSF in their version of the bill, along with a smaller reduction for NIST (6.6 percent, or $49.3 million less than FY11) and a much larger reduction for NASA (8.9 percent or $1.6 billion less than FY11), so there may be some challenging negotiations. One significant difference between the two versions that may impact funding available for other programs is that the Senate approved more than half a billion dollars for NASA’s James Webb Telescope, while the House zeroed the program. Should the conferees agree to move forward with the telescope, that will likely mean less funding available for other science programs within the minibus.
The House and Senate leadership are under some pressure to get the conference done quickly. Since October 1st, the start of the 2012 Fiscal Year, the government has been operating under a “continuing resolution” — a stop-gap spending measure designed to keep agencies funded at current levels until Congress can approve their FY12 appropriations. That continuing resolution is set to expire November 18th. It appears that the plan is to conference the current minibus expeditiously and attach a new continuing resolution that would keep government running through mid-December. For his part, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has named a slate of fairly moderate, but very experienced appropriators as conferees from the House majority, which suggests he isn’t necessarily interested in scoring ideological points with this bill as much as he is in just getting it done.
Senate leaders are hoping to move a second minibus by the end of the month. That bill would include the Energy-Water appropriation — which includes funding for the Office of Science at the Department of Energy — in addition to the Financial Services, and possibly the State-Foreign Operations or Homeland Security appropriations bills. However, complicating the calculus somewhat are the actions of the so-called Supercommittee charged with producing recommendations for dealing with the mounting debt crisis (the compromise solution to the debt limit crisis that garnered many headlines back in August and resulted in a downgrade of the country’s debt rating). The committee has until November 23rd to produce legislation to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade. Failing to enact such legislation would trigger a series of automatic cuts that would guarantee $1.2 trillion in budgetary savings. With the outcome of the debt panel’s recommendations still unknown and, perhaps, in doubt, there’s a fair bit of gamesmanship and political calculation going on in both the majority and minority leadership offices — gamesmanship that could impact final passage of one or both minibuses. Congressional Democrats could opt to let the committee fail to produce recommendations because they view the cuts that would occur automatically to be more preferable than the ones they’re likely to receive at the negotiating table in the supercommittee. At the moment, the committee has stopped meeting, citing lack of progress, so it’s quite possible that there will be no agreed-upon recommendations come November 23rd.
Whatever the outcome, we’ll have all the details here!
The President released his FY12 Budget Request to Congress this morning. We’ll take close-up looks at several of the key science agency budget requests as the day goes on, but here’s a first look at the overall picture. From the Analytical Perspectives on the Budget:
The Administration recognizes the Government’s role in fostering scientific and technological breakthroughs, and has committed resources to ensure America leads the world in the innovations of the future. The Budget proposes $66 billion for basic and applied research because it is a reliable source of new knowledge to drive job creation and economic growth.
The President’s 2012 Budget maintains his commitment to double Federal investment in key basic research agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF); the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science; and the laboratories of the Department of Commerce (DOC) National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The Budget proposes $14 billion in 2012 for these three agencies, an increase of $1.5 billion over 2010 funding. Priorities for 2012 include clean energy and advanced manufacturing research in areas such as information technology, nanotechnology, and biotechnology at NSF, basic energy sciences at DOE, and cybersecurity, biomanufacturing, and innovative energy technologies at NIST.
The Federal R&D effort needs complementary R&D investments from business to provide a much wider range of technology options than the Government alone could provide and to translate scientific discoveries into commercially successful, innovative products and services. In order to provide businesses with greater confidence to invest, innovate, and grow, the Budget proposes to simplify and expand the Research and Experimentation tax credit, and make it permanent.
Some quick agency-specific numbers:
NSF would see a 16 percent increase in R&D vs. FY10 (the FY11 year isn’t available for comparison yet because Congress hasn’t finished it).
Energy research would see an increase of 20 percent vs. FY10
NASA R&D overall would increase 6 percent, and NASA basic research would grow 220 percent from $835 million to $2.7 billion…but only because construction on the International Space Station is complete, so any resources to operate this new “national lab” are considered “basic research”
Defense basic research would see an increase of 14 percent, applied would decrease 4 percent.
NIH research would increase 3 percent.
Of course, this budget is essentially “dead on arrival” as far as the House is concerned. But it’s still important to have a good request from the President and the agencies on record when we go advocating for the science agencies during the FY12 appropriations process.
We’ll have lots more as we go through a day of briefings…
The House Appropriations Committee released their spending cuts version 2.0 — after having their previous attempt to cut $74 billion from the President’s request for non-defense discretionary spending savaged by conservative Republicans in the House – and NSF and DOE both face significant cuts. The appropriators went back and took another look at their first proposal, which cut about $74 billion from the President’s budget request, and found another $26 billion. The new proposed cuts mean real cuts for agency budgets (not just cuts to requested increases).
Here’s a list of the proposed cuts in the CR, which will be taken up on Monday in a vehicle that combines the CR and the FY 11 Defense Appropriation.
Notable cuts for science:
National Science Foundation’s Research and Related Activities account – cut $150 million compared to NSF’s FY10 budget.
NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction – cut $62.5 million vs. FY 10.
NSF’s Education and Human Resources – cut $147 million vs. FY 10.
DOE’s Office of Science – cut $893 million.
DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – cut $786 million
NIST’s Scientific and Technical Research Services – cut $45.5 million
About the only positive — and that’s a very qualified positive — is that ARPA-E does manage to get an appropriation in the bill ($50 million), averting some concerns that the agency would receive $0. That’s significantly lower than their original funding of $400 million, but the agency is in an awkward spot because it has never had a “normal” appropriation (it was authorized in the America COMPETES Act and given a one-time appropriation in the 2009 stimulus bill), so a CR could very well have included no funding for it.
We’ll have more as we figure it out, but these numbers show the community has a lot of work to do in the House and Senate to prevent the country from taking a big step backwards in trying to improve our long-term innovative potential….