From the Hill


From the Hill

Administration releases FY 2015 budget request

President Obama’s FY 2015 budget proposal totals $3.9 trillion, of which roughly 63% is mandatory spending such as Social Security payments, roughly 30% is discretionary spending, and the rest is net interest. By comparison, in FY 2010 the split was 55% mandatory and 39% discretionary.

The expected deficit is pegged at $564 billion, a decrease from last year. The budget matches the $1.014 trillion discretionary spending cap agreed to by Congress in December, although the president has proposed an additional $56 billion in discretionary spending on top of this cap, via what’s being called the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.

Total R&D funding would amount to $135.4 billion, an increase of $1.7 billion or 1.2% above FY 2014 levels. This also represents a $5 billion or 3.9% increase above FY 2013 sequester levels. This does not account for the expected inflation rate of 1.7% this year, which means that total R&D would actually decline slightly in inflation-adjusted dollars. Defense R&D would increase by 1.7% above FY 2014 levels, and nondefense R&D would increase by 0.7%. This represents a departure from recent budgets, which have tended to be more generous to nondefense R&D at the expense of defense R&D. Among the agencies, the largest increases would occur within the Department of Energy, particularly within the National Nuclear Security Administration. On the nondefense side, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and ARPA-E would also fare well, relatively speaking. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Commerce R&D agencies would also receive relatively large boosts. Outside of these few, no other departments would keep pace with inflation.

Source: Budget of the United States Government FY 2015. Projected deficit is $564 billion. © 2014 AAAS

The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative would provide an additional $5.3 billion for R&D. This includes nearly $1 billion for NIH, over $500 million for NSF, and nearly $900 million for NASA. The initiative would also fund a national network of 45 manufacturing innovation institutes in partnership with industry. However, all of this additional funding would require Congress to raise the current discretionary spending cap or make some attempt to secure this additional R&D funding through cuts elsewhere.

National Science Foundation (NSF). The FY 2015 budget request for the NSF is $7.25 billion, an increase of 1.2% above the FY 2014 estimate. Of that request, Research and Related Activities would receive $5.72 billion, a decrease of $2 million from the FY 2014 estimate. According to NSF acting director Cora Marrett, the administration’s request, if funded by Congress, would help to support 11,000 research grant awards to 2,000 institutions and support 300,000 individual researchers.

National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH budget request is $30.3 billion, an increase of $200 million above FY 2014. According to Kathy Hudson, NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy, the request would allow the agency to award 4% (329) more grants than in 2014 and 13% (1,092) more than in 2013. NIH is requesting $100 million (an increase of $60 million) for the BRAIN initiative to support the development of new tools for mapping brain circuitry and to measure brain activity. In addition, Hudson noted that NIH is requesting $30 million within the Common Fund to launch a new research program modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA request is $2.4 billion for FY 2015, an increase of $29 million (1.2%) above the FY 2014 estimate. According to Catherine Woteki, USDA under secretary for research, education, and economics, the request includes $1.14 billion for the Agricultural Research Service; $1.5 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, including $325 million for the competitive Agriculture Food Research Initiative (AFRI); $83 million for the Economic Research Service; and $179 million for the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In addition, Woteki announced that the USDA is proposing the creation of three “Innovation Institutes” to be funded at $25 million annually per institute to focus on research in three critical areas: pollinator health, antimicrobial resistance, and a national network for bioproducts manufacturing innovation.

Source: OSTP. Red line reflects inflation, expected at 1.7 percent. Does not include additional funding proposed via Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative. © 2014 AAAS

Department of Energy (DOE). The president requested $27.9 billion for DOE, which represents a 2.6% increase above the FY 2014 enacted level. The Office of Science, which houses most of DOE’s fundamental science, would receive a 0.9% increase from FY 2014 enacted levels to $5.1 billion. Outside the Office of Science, priorities include ARPA-E, which would receive a 16.1% increase to $325 million, and energy efficiency/renewables, which would receive a 21.9% increase to $2.3 billion. Meanwhile, reactor research, fossil fuels research, and grid cybersecurity research would all experience moderate decreases in funding.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The budget requests $11.6 billion for NASA R&D, a 1% decrease from FY 2014 levels. Within NASA, the science and the aeronautics directorates would both be reduced from FY 2014 levels, as would development activities related to the Orion Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System. The science budget would decline by 3.5% to $5 billion, with only the heliophysics program receiving an increase. Aeronautics would decline by 2.7% to $551 million. Activities would receive budget boosts include exploration systems R&D and the space technology directorate. All programs would benefit from the proposed Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education. The president’s FY 2015 budget also includes a request of $2.9 billion for federal agency STEM education programs. In addition, it includes a range of program consolidations and eliminations within nine federal departments and agencies. Overall, the budget request would consolidate or eliminate a total of 31 STEM programs for a total savings of $145 million. It was noted during the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy press conference that the consolidations were implemented within the federal agencies rather than transferring programs between agencies as was proposed last year. In addition, agencies are to continue to “coordinate to implement the federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan through the Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM).”

Special Programs. The president’s budget funds three long-running interagency initiatives. The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) would receive $2.5 billion, a 0.5% increase from estimated FY 2014 levels. USGCRP is a multi-agency program that coordinates federal research on climate change and its potential effects. The Networking and IT R&D (NITRD) Program, which receives its largest contributions from the Department of Defense, DOE, and NSF, would receive $3.8 billion, a 2.9% decrease from FY 2014 levels. The National Nanotechnology Initiative would remain unchanged from the FY 2014 level of $1.5 billion.

The newest interagency project, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, would see its FY 2014 funding doubled to $200 million in FY 2015. The program coordinates research within DARPA, NIH, NSF, and the Food and Drug Administration to understand brain function and potentially develop more effective treatments or prevention measures for various diseases of the brain. NIH will contribute $100 million in FY 2015, DARPA will contribute $80 million, and NSF will invest an additional $20 million.

“From the Hill” is adapted from the newsletter Science and Technology in Congress, published by the Office of Government Relations of the American Association for the Advancement of Science ( in Washington, DC.

FY 2014 appropriations finalized

On January 17, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (HR 3547), providing appropriations for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year. The bill operates within the framework established by the December budget deal, with the overall discretionary spending limit of $1.012 trillion that rolls back half of the scheduled spending reductions following sequestration.

AAAS estimates place FY 2014 R&D at $136.2 trillion, 2.6% above FY 2013 estimates and 4.4% below FY 2012 levels. However, defense and nondefense R&D will move in opposite directions. Defense R&D will decline by 1.6% below FY 2013 post-sequester estimates and 10% below FY 2012 levels, and nondefense R&D will increase by 7.6% above FY 2013 post-sequester estimates and 2.5% above FY 2012 levels.

Under the omnibus spending bill, many R&D departments and agencies received at least a modest increase above sequester levels, and some fared better than expected. For instance, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, science and technology programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and research programs at the Department of Agriculture all ended up closer to the higher spending levels recommended by the Senate than the lower House figures, and DOE’s low-carbon energy technology programs avoided the stark cuts proposed by the House. However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will remain roughly $700 million below FY 2012 funding levels, and the U.S. Geological Survey and Environmental Protection Agency also do not return to 2012 funding. Even with some positive outcomes for certain agencies, overall federal R&D could drop to 0.80% of the gross domestic product, the lowest level since the end of World War II.

Also embedded in the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill is language regarding public access to research and government travel restrictions. Within the Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS) portion of the bill is language that would require researchers who receive federal funding from agencies funded via Labor-HHS to make their accepted research manuscripts publicly available within 12 months. The language extends the NIH policy that has existed for a number of years to agencies such as the Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Elsewhere within the omnibus bill is language that would place a cap of no more than 50 federal employees attending international conferences. In addition, it would lay out a series of reporting requirements to improve transparency regarding government travel, including information regarding total costs of government-sponsored conferences and contracting procedures.

Cite this Article

"From the Hill." Issues in Science and Technology 30, no. 3 (Spring 2014).

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