A Periodic Federal Science Update

Last week, the Congress reached agreement and President signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the Federal Government for the balance of FY 2017.  Overall the bill meets the FY 2017 spending caps in law appropriating $1.070 trillion in discretionary budget authority.  In March of this year, the Administration proposed the reduction of non-defense programs by $18 billion to partially pay for supplemental increases of $33 billion for defense and border security activities including initial construction of a southern border wall.  Some of those proposed reductions would have come from NSF, NOAA, EPA, USGS, etc.  The Congress largely rejected those reductions to non-defense programs in their final version of the FY17 omnibus.  The Congress has provided half of the Administration’s supplemental request for the Department of Defense, adding $15 billion in overseas contingency operations funding.  The Congress did not support the Administration’s request to begin construction on the wall, but instead provides $1.1 billion for border security technologies and infrastructure. 

National Science Foundation (NSF) – NSF is provided with $7.5 billion that is $8.7 million more than FY 2016 and $66 million above the House bill. The funding is provided for basic research across all scientific disciplines and to support the development of effective Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] programs, and grow the next generation of scientists. In addition, the funding will support programs that foster innovation, including funding for advanced manufacturing research, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity and neuroscience.

For Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, $209 million, an increase of $9 million is included of which $122 million in funding is provided to facilitate planning and construction of 3 regional class research vessels.  NSF Education and Human Resources programs are primarily level funded, and $15 million is included to establish a Hispanic Serving Institution program that will build capacity at institutions that typically do not receive high levels of NSF funding.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) -- $19.65 billion for NASA, which is $1.4 billion above the FY 2017 discretionary request; $368.3 million more than the FY2016 enacted level and $145.3 million more than the House bill.  These funds are to support the human and robotic exploration of space; fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, solar system, and the universe; and support fundamental aeronautics research.  Nearly all the increase in NASA science would go to planetary sciences with funding specifically provided for a mission to Europa and a Mars 2020 mission.  Earth sciences would remain level with last year’s mark avoiding a 12% reduction initially proposed by the House. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) -- $5.68 billion for NOAA, which is $90.2 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level and $94.9 million more than the House bill. $517.4 million for National Ocean Service operating expenses, which is $17.3 million more than the FY 2016 enacted level and $42.3 million more than the House bill. Increases above both FY 2016 and the House bill are provided for Coastal Science and Assessment, and Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas. Coastal Zone Management grants are $10 million above FY16 and in line with the Senate’s FY17 mark at $85 million. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Observations receives a $1.2 million increase over the FY16 level, coming in at $30.7 million. Marine Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas see slight growth to $51 million -- $2 million more than FY16. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is funded at $23.5 million and Prescott grants were restored to their FY16 level.  Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing enforcement received an increase of $1 million over FY 16 to combat IUU fishing. Marine debris received an increase of $500K. NOAA Education was restored to $26.9 million; the Administration had proposed reducing NOAA education to $16.5 million.

NOAA Research (OAR) received $477.7 million for operations, research, and facilities, which is $15.8 million more than the FY 2016 enacted level and $40.1 million more than the House bill. Within OAR a total of $72.5 million is provided for the Sea Grant program of which $9.5 million is for marine aquaculture. An additional $9.3 million is provided in NOAA Fisheries for aquaculture.  Within OAR, ocean acidification is funded at $10.5 million; cooperative institutes for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes Research is funded at a total of $32 million. NOAA climate research is restored to its FY 16 level of $158 million. Regional climate data and information is funded at $38 million.  For climate-related cooperative institutes $60.0 million is provided.  The original House mark for these climate research activities was $128 million.  Weather and Air chemistry cooperative institutes are funded at a total of $80 million.  Increases are provided for Weather and Air Chemistry Research and Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Research.  Within Weather and Air Chemistry Research strong funding is provided for the U.S. Weather Research Program and the Joint Technology Transfer program while $1 million is provided for the Research Transition Acceleration program.

The National Weather Service received $979.8 million for operating expenses, which is $9.1 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level and $9.1 million less than the House bill.  The bill provides full funding for NOAA’s weather satellites, which are critical for accurate weather warnings to protect lives and property. The bill maintains funding investments for fisheries management, including the testing and implementation of new technologies to expand opportunities for American commercial and recreational fishermen. Funding is also included to allow NOAA to execute its fleet recapitalization plan, which is a strategic plan to replace the agency’s oldest research vessels. Funding for NWS observations ($216 million) is level with FY16.  Funding for NWS Science and Technology is $136.5 millio - about $2 million less than FY 16.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST is funded at $952 million -- $12 million below the FY 2016 level.  Core research activities are funded at $690 million.  Funding for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership would remain level with FY 2016.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – NIH received a $2 billion increase with funding targeted to Alzheimer's disease, the brain, antibiotic resistance, and the Precision Medicine Initiative. The bill also provides a general increase to all NIH Institutes and Centers to continue progress in developing new treatments and cures, including increases for Clinical and Translational Science Awards and Institutional Development Awards. The legislation continues support for the Gabriella Miller Kids First pediatric research initiative.

As a result of the focus on Alzheimer’s, the National Institute on Aging received a 28% increase.  The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), NIH’s second largest institute received a 6% increase. General Medical Sciences, which supports and conducts basic research on biological processes and living systems received a 5.5% increase.  Most other institutes would receive at least inflationary increases. The omnibus funds the Precision Medicine Initiative at $120 million; the BRAIN Initiative at $110 million; and antibiotic resistance research at $50 million. An extra $300 million was also transferred to the National Cancer Institute in accord with 21st Century Cures and its support of the Cancer Moonshot, resulting in a 9.1 percent increase for NCI overall. 

DOD Science and Technology - DOD science and technology spending would see a general increase across most military branches and agencies concentrated on applied research and advanced technology in sensors, materials, and other areas. Basic science funded via the Navy would be cut by 16.2 percent, which is offset by increases for basic research in the other branches. DOD’s medical research account, which funds intramural and extramural research on an array of health-related topics, would be subject to a small 0.9 percent cut. Congress added over $900 million for research on cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other areas.  DOD also received its request to continue its manufacturing innovation institutes

DOE Science and Technology - The bill provides $5.392 billion, $42 million more than the fiscal year 2016 level, for the Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest federal sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences, and supports 22,000 researchers at 17 national laboratories and more than 300 universities.

The bill prioritizes materials research, high performance computing and biology to maintain U.S. scientific leadership. The bill also provides $4.311 billion for applied energy programs, $123 million more than the fiscal year 2016 level. This funding supports research, development, demonstration and deployment of an extensive range of clean energy technologies, including for nuclear, fossil and renewable energy applications. This amount includes $306 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop next-generation, innovative energy technologies.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The bill trimmed the EPA budget by $81 million, or about 1%, to $8.06 billion.  Congress rejected the Administration’s requests for significant further reductions to select research and ecosystem protection programs, and dropped many policy riders.  The agency’s science and technology programs, however, did take a $28 million, 3.8% cut, to $707 million.  The White House had identified some $230 million in EPA cuts it wanted Congress to make this year, including a $48 million cut to climate-related research, a $49 million cut to EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and $30 million cut to efforts to clean up contaminated superfund sites. Instead, Congress rejected those requests, keeping air and climate research flat at about $117 million, and the Great Lakes program flat at $300 million, while adding $7.5 million to superfund cleanups.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – USGS received a 2.2% increase.  There are additional resources for arctic research and land remote sensing activities.  The Natural Hazards program within USGS would receive additional funding for continued development of an earthquake early warning system and volcano detection.

Administration Position on Omnibus -- On May 2, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Position (SAP) regarding the FY17 omnibus saying that if the bill was presented to the President in its current form, his senior advisors would recommend that he sign it into law.

More information on the details of the FY17 omnibus appropriations act can be found here, here, here, and here.