Congress Rolls Back the Sequester on Science, at Least for Now

House and Senate negotiators have actually succeeded in reaching agreement on final numbers for all 12 outstanding FY 14 appropriations bills packaged into one omnibus bill (HR 3547) and, at first glance — considering the current budget environment and how bad things could have been — it’s not awful.

Here’s a quick summary:

NSF — The omnibus would fund NSF overall at $7.17 billion in FY 14. That’s well below the $7.6 billion requested by the President (and $82 million below the FY13 pre-sequester “enacted” number), but $290 million more than the FY13 post-sequester level, or an increase in real dollars for the agency of about 4.2 percent. Research and Related Activities would receive a similar increase – 4.1 percent to $5.8 billion. In both cases, appropriators appear to have split the difference in recommended funding levels between the more frugal House-approved plan and the more generous Senate Appropriations Committee approved plan.

DOD — Defense basic research (6.1) would see a 10 percent increase versus FY13 post-sequester; applied research (6.2) would increase 6.7 percent; and advanced technology development (6.3) would increase 3.7 percent — which suggests that the appropriators are heeding the message that basic and applied research should see some priority in the budget after short-term thinking cost them in previous budgets. I haven’t parsed all the line-by-line numbers in the bill yet to see how specific computing accounts fared, however.

DOE — DOE’s Office of Science would see an increase of about 9.7 percent to $5.07 billion in the bill. ARPA-E would remain unchanged at $280 million. The Advanced Scientific Computing Research program would see an increase to $478.6 million from $419 million in FY13 post-sequester (an increase of 14.2 percent).

NIST — NIST’s “core research” would see an increase of $41 million vs. FY13.

NIH — NIH’s budget would increase to $29.9 billion, from $28.4 billion in FY13 post-sequester.

So, in most cases, the omnibus would roll back the impacts of last year’s sequester, and in many cases provide increases beyond the roll back. Maybe just as importantly, this omnibus signals that FY14 appropriations are actually completed — there will be no continuing resolution for agencies for which there was too much controversy to reach a deal. House and Senate negotiators actually agreed to drop provisions the other side found contentious in the spirit of getting these bills done.

The House passed the bill today (359-67). Passage should also be swift in the Senate. Congress yesterday passed a short continuing resolution through Saturday to give themselves enough time to get this done.

Next up is the President’s budget for FY15 released in early Feb, then another shot at the debt limit (though the expectation is it will pass without as much of a fight this time around), and then appropriators will set to work on FY 15 appropriations, which they hope to finish in regular order — something that hasn’t happened in nearly two decades. We’ll keep you updated!

Congress Rolls Back the Sequester on Science, at Least for Now