A Periodic Federal Science Update

FY 2018 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations — On June 29, 2017 the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee marked up and reported out their FY 2018 appropriations bill.  The bill funds the Department of Commerce – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA; the Department of Justice and the FBI; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Science Foundation (NSF); and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  At this time, only a brief summary of the bill is available.  More details will be released once the bill moves to full Committee mark up in mid-July.

The bill totals $54 billion, a $2.6 billion reduction from the FY 2017 and $4.8 billion above the President’s request for the agencies and programs in this bill.  The bill targets funding increases for national security – including cybercrime, counter-terrorism and espionage; federal law enforcement; help boost trade enforcement; continue investments in space exploration programs; and advance science and technologies essential for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. In order to make these investments, the Subcommittee reduced or eliminated a number of “lower-priority programs”.

For NOAA, the bill provides $4.97 billion, which is $710 million below the enacted level but nearly $200 million more than the Administration’s request.  Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for “lower priority” activities.  It appears that the Sea Grant program, slated for elimination under the Administration’s budget request is sustained in the House bill at a level close to the FY 2017 level.  The bill also includes full funding to continue the current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program to help improve weather.

For NSF, the bill provides $7.3 billion, which is $133 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Research and Related Activities are funded at the current level of $6 billion and rejects the Administration’s proposal to reduce NSF research by nearly $700 million. The funding is targeted to foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.  The reduction of $133 million appears to eliminate the 3 Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRVs) contained in the NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account.

For NASA, the bill provides $19.9 billion, $219 million above the 2017 enacted level. This funding includes: $4.6 billion for Exploration – $226 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System and related ground systems; and $5.9 billion for NASA Science programs – $94 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This targets funding to planetary science and astrophysics, while reducing funding for lower-priority research.

FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations — On June 28, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee marked up their recommendations for their FY 2018 Appropriations bill.  This bill contains funding for key DOE research programs.  Funding for energy programs within DOE is $9.6 billion – a decrease of $1.7 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $2.3 billion above the President's request. Within this total, the bill prioritizes early-stage research and development funding for the applied energy programs. Funding is targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance the nation’s goal of an “all-of-the-above” solution to energy independence.  Research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies are funded at $635 million – a decrease of $33 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $355 million above the budget request. In addition, to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy, research, development, and demonstration activities are funded at $969 million – $48 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $266 million above the request.

Renewable energy programs are cut by $986 million compared to fiscal year 2017 and increased by $468 million compared to the President’s budget request. While the bill includes the President’s proposal to eliminate the APRA-E research program, at the same time it includes $5.4 billion for science research – the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources.

Additional details on DOE funding will be available once the bill moves to full Committee in mid-July.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Expresses Opposition to Administration’s Proposed 22% Reduction to NIH – On June 22, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education on the FY 2018 NIH budget.  The Administration has proposed to reduce the NIH budget by 22% as well as cap indirect cost rates.  Neither of these proposals were met with support by the Republican and Democratic Senators present. Chairman Roy Blunt who has increased NIH funding by 13% over the past two years, assured the NIH Director that the Subcommittee will not be implementing the President’s FY 2018 proposals.