FY 10 Appropriations Update: Energy, NSF, NIST, Defense


We’re in the end game for the FY 2010 appropriations, but no one is really sure exactly how this will end (though there are some good theories). While a number of bills have actually passed through regular order — including, most relevantly for the computing research community, the Energy and Water appropriations bill, which contains funding for the DOE’s Office of Science — an equal number of key bills remain unsettled. Still unresolved are the Commerce, Justice, Science bill, which includes funding for NSF, NOAA, NIST, and NASA; the Defense bill, which includes funding for DARPA and the Defense labs; and Labor-HHS, which includes funding for NIH. Because we’ve passed the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30th), the government is operating under a “Continuing Resolution” that will keep agencies funded at the FY 09 rate through Dec 18th. So, conventional wisdom suggests that these remaining appropriations bills will get taken care of by then (and probably at the last minute). Until then, Congress — the Senate, in particular — is more than occupied by the raging debate on reforming health care and will fit in appropriations discussions between now and then only as little blocks of free time appear.

It appears at this point that the remaining bills will end up in an omnibus measure — that is, they’ll be bundled into one bill for passage. (Because it’s only seven appropriations bills that would be bundled, rather than the usual twelve, many have taken to referring to the bill as a “minibus” — though I suppose everything is relative in DC). It also appears that the Defense bill will be the anchor for the minibus, because it’s considered the highest priority (a “must pass” bill), and thus many controversial provisions unrelated to defense that don’t have homes elsewhere may find their way into the bill (there’s been talk of adding a DC voting rights measure to it, though that’s now looking unlikely, or some health care-related language). But aside from that, we assume that sometime that week of Dec 14-18, we’ll start to see the final agreed-upon numbers for all of the as-yet-unappropriated science programs we care about. Until then, here’s what we know:

Department of Energy Office of Science (status: final): The Energy and Water Appropriations was passed and signed by the President on October 28th (P.L. 111-85). In it, DOE’s Office of Science received just over $4.8 billion (plus about $77 million in earmarks), a compromise between levels the House and Senate had passed separately, but an increase of 3 percent compared with FY 2009. The appropriation includes funding for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program (ASCR), which will receive $394 million in FY 10, slightly less than both the Senate original appropriations of $399 million and the House original number of $409 million, but a healthy 6.8 percent increase over FY2009.

National Science Foundation (status: unfinished): Funding for NSF is contained in the FY 10 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill. The House version of this bill would fund NSF at $6.93 billion in FY 10, an increase of 6.9 percent over FY09 but $108 million lower than the President’s request for the agency. The Senate version would fund the agency at $6.9 billion, a 6.6 percent increase. Both the Senate and House bills include healthy increases for NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate. The Senate version would provide $620 million in FY 10, 8.1 percent more than FY 09, and the House would provide $623 million, or an 8.6 percent increase. Both levels are less than the $633 million the President requested in his budget.

NSF’s Office of CyberInfrastructure (OCI) also fares well in both versions of the bill. The House would provide $216 million for OCI in FY 10, an increase of 8.1 percent, and the Senate $215 million, a 7.7 percent increase. Both are below the President’s requested increase of 10.0 percent in FY 10.

NSF’s Education and Human Resources directorate would receive a $17.6 million increase over FY 09 in the House, a $12.5 million increase over the Administration request. The Senate passed the President’s EHR request of $857.76 million.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (status: unfinished): NIST is also a part of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill. The House passed version includes $587 million for NIST’s research efforts, a 1.6 percent decrease from FY 09. The Senate would fund the agency at $684 million (less $47 million in earmarks), a 14.5 percent increase. However, if you remove the earmarked spending, the real increase to NIST in the Senate bill would be 6.1 percent. The Administration requested $652 million for the agency, a 9.2 percent increase over FY 09.

Department of Defense (status: unfinished): The Defense Appropriations bill includes funding for all DOD research, including DARPA and the Defense research labs. There’s some concern about the levels included for DARPA in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, but especially for the Senate levels. Both the House and Senate included significant cuts to the President’s request for DARPA — the House trimmed about $200 million from the request, the Senate about $500 million. In the Senate’s case, appropriations staffers apparently didn’t feel that the agency, given its recent history of under-spending its appropriation — a behavior linked to policies of the agency’s previous leadership — warranted an increase in FY 10 and instead used that money to fund increases elsewhere in the bill. Many of us in the science advocacy community reacted strongly to this reduction. Under new leadership, the agency appears to be making a serious effort to reverse many of the policies that the university community and Congress shared, and has proposed a number of new efforts designed to reengage DARPA with university researchers. We do not want to see that new approach derailed or hamstrung by this proposed reduction. CRA, along with many partners in the academic and industrial communities have weighed in with Congress in an attempt to mitigate these reductions. We’ll know in December how successful those efforts were. (We’ll also have much more on the “new” DARPA in future posts…)

There are also significant differences in opinion between the Senate and the House in the overall level of defense basic research (or 6.1 research, in DOD parlance). The House approved bill would fund Defense 6.1 research at $1.798 billion in FY 10, an increase of 10.1 percent over FY 09. The Senate, while still approving an increase, would only include $1.713 billion in FY 10, a 4.9 percent increase. Like the DARPA issue, this disparity will need to get worked out in conference between the chambers.

As we learn more, we’ll post it here. But it’s unlikely much will happen until mid-December….