On Friday, the House and Senate leadership, along with the White House, reached an agreement on a final budget for the federal government through September 30, 2011 (or FY11, for short). The agreement helped avert a government shutdown over the weekend and will finally give federal agencies some certainty about the funding they’ll have available for the remainder of the fiscal year. While the agreement doesn’t cut federal science budgets nearly as deeply as the continuing resolution the House approved in February, science agencies won’t see any increases under the plan. Here’s a quick summary of what the agreement both chambers will likely approve this week will do to some key science agencies:

The National Science Foundation, which had been slated to receive a $140 million cut under the original House-approved plan, would  instead see a cut of $43 million (or 0.8 percent) to its research accounts in FY11 compared to the levels approved for FY10 — a full $444 million less than the President requested in his FY11 budget. NSF’s Education and Human Resources directorate would see a cut of $10 million vs. FY10, $29 million less than the President’s request.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology would see a $7 million cut in FY11 compared to FY10 — a $77 million reduction from the President’s requested level.

DOE’s Office of Science, which had faced a $1.1 billion cut in the original House plan, would instead see a decrease of $35 million in FY11 compared to FY10. This is $252 million less than the President requested.

We’ll have more details on the progress of the bill and a look at the defense R&D it contains in the next update.

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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….

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Update: (Feb 11, 2011) – They’ve released version 2.0 of the proposal…

Update: Um, nevermind. After conservative Republicans savaged the proposed $32 billion in cuts as inadequate, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers pledged to come back with a proposal that would cut $100 billion, potentially putting NSF right back under the crosshairs. Here’s Roger’s statement:

My Committee has been working diligently to go line-by-line in every agency budget to find and cut unnecessary spending to reduce our deficit and help our economy thrive.
After meeting with my subcommittee Chairs, we have determined that the CR can and will reach a total of $100 billion in cuts compared to the President’s request immediately – fully meeting the goal outlined in the Republican ‘Pledge to America’ in one fell swoop. Our intent is to make deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of government, leaving no stone unturned and allowing no agency or program to be held sacred. I have instructed my committee to include these deeper cuts, and we are continuing to work to complete this critical legislation.
We’ll have more when we learn more.

Original Post: As readers of this blog are no doubt aware, Congress has not yet finished the FY 11 appropriations process, leaving federal agencies in funding limbo, despite being five months into FY 11 fiscal year. Starting Monday, House appropriators hope to start the process of resolving the FY 11 budget by passing a “continuing resolution” for the remainder of the fiscal year that will make significant cuts to the budgets of a lot of key agencies. The GOP leadership of the House Appropriations Committee today released a list of some key cuts they plan to make and science agencies aren’t spared — with two notable exceptions.

The list of cuts is available here.

It’s important to keep in mind that the cuts are to the President’s requested budget for FY 11, not to the agency’s FY 10 budgets. In many cases, the President requested substantial increases for these programs, so the “cuts” listed here are actually just reductions to the level of increase requested. The agency might still fare better than it did in FY 10.

The National Science Foundation is targeted for $139 million in “cuts” in the proposal. However, the President requested an increase of $479 million for the agency in FY 11, so in real terms, NSF would see an *increase* of $340 million in FY 11 vs FY 10, or about 6.0 percent. That’s pretty astonishing, given the circumstances. (more on that below)

DOE Office of Science is the other side of the coin, though. They’re slated for $1.1 billion in cuts in the proposal. The President requested an increase of only $226 million for the agency in FY 11, so the proposed cuts are a real cut of $874 million (or 18 percent) to the Science budget compared to FY 10. DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account would get hit even harder, suffering a $786 million real cut, or 35 percent.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is another loser, receiving almost 15 percent in real cuts in the proposal, though as always, it’s difficult to assess where the cuts will fall (will they hit the controversial TIP or MEP programs, or NIST’s core research?).

NASA is a big winner in the proposal. The GOP leadership wants a “cut” of $379 million for the agency, but the President requested an increase of $1.7 billion for the agency. So, the agency still would clear $1.3 billion in new funding in FY 11 vs. FY 10 (14 percent increase).

NIH would be flat funded in real terms by the proposal.

So, encouraging news for NSF, but very bad news for DOE. Also, these numbers aren’t final. There are a many proposed cuts that hit very politically charged accounts, like the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program (which, among other things, funds the purchase of bulletproof vests for police officers) and the food assistance program for low-income women, infants and children. If appropriators are forced to back off cuts to those accounts (and others), they may look for other places to achieve the same savings, which could put NSF back in the crosshairs.

But, looking on the bright side, the fact that even in this fiscally harsh environment — this huge laundry list of belt-tightening — NSF was still singled out for special treatment (and increases) is a pretty important symbol. It perhaps means that the GOP leadership  still understands that there’s value in the investment in NSF — that an investment in NSF probably provides more real return to the country than it costs. So there’s a little reason for optimism amongst the carnage. But apparently they haven’t gotten that message about DOE….

On Monday we’ll also get our first look at the President’s budget proposal for FY 12. Given the high prominence he gave research and education issues in his State of the Union address last month, and the degree to which he’s been touring the country the last two weeks talking up the importance of innovation to America’s future, it’s likely that we’ll see some healthy requests for science funding. But achieving those increases in this Congress and this fiscal environment is likely to be an extremely steep climb. But stay tuned because we’ll have all the details here.