NSF Fares (Suprisingly) Well, DOE Does Not, in Proposed Approps Cuts for FY11

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.

NSF Fares (Suprisingly) Well, DOE Does Not, in Proposed Approps Cuts for FY11