Washington’s Week in Science
Policy News and Selected Funding Opportunities
Top Stories of the Week
Administration: FY17 Budget Proposal Unveiled, Mandatory Spending Dominates Discussion
Congress: Reaction to Budget Request Falls Along Partisan and Jurisdictional Lines
NSF: Basic Research Proposed to Increase
NIH: Funding Increases Hinge on Mandatory Spending Proposals
NASA: Space Science Increases Slightly Overall
Defense: Basic and Applied Research Declines
Research Enterprise: American Academy of Arts and Science Examines Public University Financial Model
The Administration released the last of the President’s budget requests in this Administration. This marks an important step in the process, but only Congress can provide the necessary funding and will make substantial changes in the final outcome. This year many agency budgets are an integrated mix of discretionary and mandatory funding. Mandatory funding would materialize only after the authorizing committees of jurisdiction enact the necessary legislation.
Stated top level Administration FY17 research related priorities include the following:
Prioritizing Research and Development. The budget sustains the Administration’s consistent prioritization of R&D with an investment of $152 billion for R&D overall through both discretionary and mandatory funding proposals, a 4% increase from FY 2016. Of the $152 billion, $4 billion is proposed as mandatory funding.
- Clean Energy R&D. Under the rubric of “Mission Innovation,” the budget proposes to double the overall investment in clean energy R&D from $6.4 billion in 2016 to $12.8 billion in 2021. In FY17, the budget provides $7.7 billion government-wide, a 20 percent increase over 2016 across 12 agencies. For DOE this includes $600 million in additional discretionary spending compared to FY16. Targeted increases are also proposed for NSF, NASA and USDA. These initial investments are intended to target early stage R&D.
- Basic Research. The budget provides $14.6 billion in 2017, an increase of over $900 million over the 2016 enacted level, for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Of this, DOE Office of Science would receive $5.6 billion, an increase of about $200 million compared to 2016 levels.
- NASA. The Obama administration is proposing $19 billion for NASA including $763 million in mandatory funding. According to NASA documents, one focus would be $790 million, a 23% increase, to fund NASA’s research efforts to create quieter, more efficient and less-polluting aircraft.
- Cancer Moonshot. The budget supports cancer research with a $1 billion initiative to provide the necessary funding for researchers to accelerate the development of new cancer detection and treatments. This includes $195 million in new cancer activities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY16 $755 million in mandatory funds in the 2017 budget for new cancer-related research activities at both NIH and the Food and Drug Administration, and support from other agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. The budget proposes a 13 percent Increase for the National Cancer Institute raising its budget to $5.9 billion.
- Biomedical Research. The budget provides $33.1 billion, including $1.8 billion in new mandatory funding, to support biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This would be an increase of $1 billion over FY16.
- Agricultural Research. The USDA’s flagship competitive peer-reviewed research program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), is funded at $700 million, including $325 million in mandatory funding. This is the full amount authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, and would double the 2016 funding level.
- Manufacturing. The budget invests in Manufacturing Extension Partnerships. As part of this, the Administration is proposing $1.9 billion in mandatory funding to complete the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), of which 9 institutes now exist. The goal is to add 6 new institutes in FY16, 5 in FY17 and 45 institutes by 2025.
As expected, Republican leaders condemned the President’s budget request. In addition to partisan reactions, Appropriations Committee Chairmen in both the House and Senate have called attention to the mandatory spending proposals which would bypass the normal appropriations process and reduce the level of Congressional oversight and control.
The President’s budget release also marked the beginning of this year’s debate over budget process. House conservative members have signaled a desire to enact a budget resolution that would achieve significant savings in discretionary and/or mandatory spending.
The budget request for NSF includes $7.56 billion for discretionary funding, a slight increase over the FY16 level of $7.46 billion. It also includes a proposal for $400 million in mandatory funding. Together with mandatory funding and other proposed sources of revenue (from H1-B Non-Immigrant Petitioner Fees and authority to retain donations) the Administration’s request is $8.099 billion, a 6.7% increase over FY16.
Read More: NSF Budget Request
For NIH, the budget request consists of $30.313 billion in discretionary funding, a decrease of $1 billion from FY16. Together with mandatory funding, the total NIH program level is $33.136 billion, an increase of $825 million over FY16. The NIH request is unique in that the possibility of providing a line of mandatory funding has a strong precedent in specific legislative proposals over the past year.
Overall, the $19.025 billion NASA request is $260 million below FY16. For Space Science, the request is $5.6 billion, of which $298 million is derived from mandatory spending specifically allocated to each division. For example the majority of funding for the Europa mission and the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope is proposed as mandatory spending. The discretionary portion of the request is $287 million below the FY16 spending level.
The discretionary portion of the request is $287 million below the FY16 spending level.
Read More: NASA Budget Request
Overall funding for the Office of Science would increase by 4-6% in the FY17 request to $5.672 billion. Of this, $100 million proposed as mandatory funding for university grants.
Read More: DOE Budget Request
The FY17 budget request for DOD includes $2.115 billion for basic (6.1) R&D, a decrease of $205 million from FY16. For applied (6.2) R&D, the budget proposes $4.884 billion, a decrease of $172 million. Together, the FY17 request would represent more than a 5% reduction in basic and applied research.
Read More: DOD Budget Request
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences initiated the Lincoln Project to study the importance of public research universities and the economic trends affecting their operations and sustainability. Now, the American Academy has released a report entitled Understanding the Financial Model commenting on the basic funding challenges for public research universities.
With the dramatic decline in State funding beginning in 2000, and the failure of federal funding to cover this deficit, public research universities have struggled to reduce administrative and overhead costs, and increase efficiency of service. Despite this, rising tuition has become the principle revenue source for public universities.
Yet these trends are exacerbating the divide between the well-endowed and the less prosperous public research universities, and threaten to weaken the quality of education at both. The report illustrates the challenges specific public institutions have faced, and some steps that have proven successful, yet ultimately points to a broken, unsustainable model in need of attention.
The report points to a broken, unsustainable model in need of attention.
Read More: Washington Post
In other news, amid the flurry of activity surrounding the budget release, the bill H.R.3293 – Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, advanced to the floor action this week. The bill would direct the NSF to determine “.. justified in writing, that the grant or agreement promotes the progress of science in the United States, is worthy of federal funding…” As is the practice at this stage of the process, the White House issued its Statement of Administration Policy which states in part:
“Contrary to its stated purpose, H.R. 3293 would add nothing to accountability in Federal funding for scientific research, while needlessly adding to bureaucratic burdens and overhead at the NSF. And, far from promoting the progress of science in the United States, it would replace the clarity of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 with confusing language that could cast a shadow over the value of basic research which, by its nature, will have outcomes with contributions to national interests other than the progress of science which cannot be predicted in advance…If the President were presented with H.R. 3293, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
The bill passed the House on February 10, largely along party lines.
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