The funding picture for most R&D agencies for the fiscal year
(FY) 2012 is relatively bleak, as it is for most government functions.
In actions taken thus far, basic research has generally been supported,
whereas applied research programs would see deep cuts, in some cases
more than 30%.
Congress is not expected to complete work on the FY 2012 budget
before the new fiscal year begins on Oc-tober 1. Debates over spending
for this budget will focus on its composition, not its size, because the
Budget Control Act of 2011, passed on August 2 to allow the U.S. debt
ceiling to rise, set total discretionary spending at $1,043 trillion,
down 0.7% or $7 billion from FY 2011.
Although the budget situation for R&D in the FY 2012 budget
looks bad, the situation for the following fiscal year could be even
worse. Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew sent a memo to
department and agency heads dated August 17 providing guidance on the
preparation of their FY 2013 budget requests. The memo directs agencies
to submit requests totaling at least 5% below FY 2011 enacted
discretionary appropriations and to identify additional reductions that
would bring the total request to at least 10% below FY 2011 enacted
The enactment of the Budget Control Act will not end the bitter
controversies about the size and role of federal spending. The act
requires $1.2 trillion in budget cuts during the next 10 years and calls
for a 12-member congressional commission to find additional savings of
up to $1.5 trillion by December 2011. The additional cuts can come from
any combination of sources: reductions in discretionary spending,
changes in entitlement programs, or revenue increases. However, if the
commission cant agree on a package of reductions, automatic cuts will
occur. These cuts, which would have the greatest effect on discretionary
spending, would occur on January 2, 2013.
In the meantime, work continues on the FY 2012 budget. As of August
31, the House had approved 9 of the 12 appropriations bills, the Senate
only 1. Here are some highlights.
The House-passed Defense Appropriations Bill would increase funding
for basic research by 4.3% and cut applied research by 3.2%.
In the House-passed bill, funding for Department of Energy (DOE)
R&D spending is set at $10.4 billion, $166 million less than FY 2011
and $2.6 billion less than the president's request. The Office of
Science, which sponsors most of DOE's basic research, is funded at
$4.8 billion, a 0.9% cut from FY 2011 and $616 million or 11.4% less
than the president's request. Applied research programs face much
larger cuts. The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program
is funded at $ 1.3 billion, a $527 million or 40.6% cut and $1.9 billion
or 59.4% less than the president's request. The Fossil Energy
R&D program is facing a cut of 22.5%.
In the House-passed bill funding the Department of Agriculture
(USDA), R&D funding is $1.7 billion, $350 million or 17.3% less than
the president's request and a $334 million or 16.6% decrease from
last year. The Agricultural Research Service, the USDA's intramural
funding program, would receive $988 million, down 12.8%, and the
National Institute for Food and Agriculture, the extramural funding
program, would receive $1.01 billion, down 16.7%.
In the House Appropriations Committee-approved Commerce, Justice,
Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) face large cuts, whereas the National
Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST) fare better. Because of a cut to NOA As Operations,
Research, and Facilities account, NOAA's R&D spending will be
down 9.2%. NASA is funded at $16.8 billion, down $1.6 billion or 8.9%
from last year, with the largest cuts occurring in Space Operations,
because of the end of the Space Shuttle program, and the Science
Directorate, because of the cancellation of the James Webb Space
Telescope. The bill funds NIST at $701 million, a $49 million or 6.6%
decrease. NSF is funded at $6.8 billion, the same as in FY 2011.
Decreases in the Major Research Equipment and Facilities account and
other R&D equipment and facilities investments will be the main
contributors to a small decrease in NSF s R&D investment of $5
million or 0.1%.
The House-passed bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
funds R&D at $416 million, down $296 million or 41.5% from last
The House Appropriations Committee-approved bill for the Department
of the Interior increases R&D spending overall by $36 million or
4.7%. However, R&D at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
would decline by $36 million or a 6.3% decrease, and it would decline
$30 million or 2.8% at the U.S. Geological Survey. The EPA's
Science and Technology Programs would be cut by 7.2% to $755 million,
while the entire agency faces a 17.7% or $1.5 billion cut to $7.15
billion. The bill also includes a number of policy riders, many of which
would limit the regulatory authority of the EPA.
The House passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and
Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 (H.R.2055) on June 14, and the
Senate passed its version on July 20. The total R&D investment in
the Senate bill is estimated at $1.16 billion, $144 million or 14.2%
more than the president's request and $2 million or 0.2% more than
FY 2011, whereas the House would spend $1.06 billion, $44 million or
4.3% more than the president's request and $98 million or 8.4% less
than in FY 2011. Veterans Affairs (VA) also performs R&D for other
federal agencies and nonfederal organizations, which is estimated at
$720 million for FY 2012. Adding this non-VA-funded R&D brings the
total for VA-performed R&D to $1.87 billion in the Senate bill and
$1.77 billion in the House bill.