So, the good news this year was that the President and Congress were working from the same set of numbers for the first time in a long time. The bad news is that those numbers are pretty underwhelming. The President introduced his FY15 budget request today, a budget that would remain largely flat — increasing discretionary spending just $2 billion over FY14 ($1.014 trillion in FY15 vs. $1.012 trillion in FY14). NSF would grow just 1 percent (to $7.3 billion) under the “base budget” in the President’s plan. Research at NSF would actually decrease $3 million under the President’s plan ($5.191 billion in FY14 vs. $5.188 billion in FY15). (We’ll have lots more information about NSF’s budget request next Monday when the agency rolls out its detailed budget justification.)
Recognizing that the agreed-to budget caps were overly constraining for all the Administration’s priorities, the President included a $52 billion “wish list” of additional funding proposals — called the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” — that includes increased funding for key science agencies that could be offset by cuts to farm subsidy programs, tax increases on “multi-million dollar retirement accounts,” and other spending cuts and tax increases identified by the Administration. Were that wish list to be approved by Congress, NSF could see an additional $552 million in funding (and R&D agencies overall would see an increase of $5.3 billion) However, congressional Republicans have already declared the wish list DOA.
Funding for other agencies in the President’s base budget is a bit of a mixed bag:
- DOE basic and applied research would be up 6.1 percent in the President’s plan ($8.412 billion in FY 15 vs. $7.932 billion in FY14)
- DOD basic and applied research would see an increase of 4.4 percent ($6.582 billion vs. $6.307 billion
- NIST basic and applied research would increase 3.3 percent ($598 million vs $579 million)
- NIH basic and applied research would increase 0.7 percent ($29.403 billion vs. $29.205 billion)
- Homeland Security basic and applied research would decrease 1 percent ($250 million vs. $251 million).
Keep in mind that the expected inflation rate between FY 2014 and FY 2015 is about 2 percent.
The White House has released an R&D Budget Fact sheet that goes into some of the details.
But we’ll learn more about the agency priorities as the agencies roll out their own budget request over the next week or so.
As always, we’ll have the details as we learn them!
- The National Science Foundation would increase 4.8 percent compared to FY 12, to $7.4 billion in FY13. (Research accounts up 3.9 percent)
- The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program (NITRD) overall up 1.8 percent (NSF share up 6.1 percent)
- DARPA funded at $2.8 billion. And Defense 6.1 increases to $2.1 billion.
- NIST Labs up 13.8 percent
- DHS S&T up 26.3 percent to $729 million
- DOE Office of Science up 2.4 percent
As expected, these aren’t huge increases, but in the context of the current fiscal climate, they demonstrate that the Administration continues to make investments in research and development a priority. It’s certainly a better position from which to start the annual budget process than if they’d proposed cuts.
We’ll have more on the DOE Office of Science budget and NSF CISE budget today after budget briefings at those agencies.
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!