Public Policy

Appropriators Make Progress on FY2015 Federal S&T Funding Levels

By IEEE-USA Staff

On 30 May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by 321-97 vote the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act (H.R. 4660), which provides funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NASA and other agencies.

The House proposed to increase NSF’s overall budget by 3.1 percent, which is 1.9 percent more than the President’s FY 2015 request.

NSF’s Research and Related Activities were slated for a 2.8 percent increase ($165 million) over FY 2014 levels, bringing the total research budget to $5.97 billion. Although Appropriators don’t allocate funding at the level of the NSF research directorate, the budget increase is expected to produce increases on the order of 4-6 percent for NSF’s engineering and computer and information science and engineering directorates.

Several amendments were offered on the House floor targeted at trimming the NSF budget. Most notable was a successful amendment by House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith requiring NSF to hold funding for its Social, Biological and Economic Sciences Directorate flat to FY 2014 levels ($257 million).

NIST was awarded a modest 1.2 percent ($8 million) increase, which would bring its FY 2015 budget to $675 million ($15 million less than the President’s request). A 1.9 percent increase for NIST’s scientific and technical research and measurement services would be offset by reductions to NIST’s industrial technology and research facility construction budgets.

NASA’s total FY 2015 budget was pegged for a 1.4 percent increase ($250 million), including a 4 percent bump for NASA R&D programs. A sizeable increase (9.8 percent or $47 million) in NASA aeronautics research would be offset in part by a 15.5 percent reduction in funding for NASA space technology research. Space science would grow by 4.1 percent.

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The White House took exception to the House bill, releasing a statement noting that �while the Administration appreciates the support for research and development in the bill, H.R. 4660 inadequately funds areas critical to the Nation’s economic growth, security, and competitiveness in the global marketplace, including investments in climate research, assistance to small manufacturers, and support for commercial space flight, census research, and access to justice.�

Senate Swaps Priorities

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of H.R. 4660 on 5 June, taking a more favorable approach toward NASA and NIST than their House counterparts, at the expense of NSF funding levels favored by the House.

According to Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the bill �puts money in the Federal checkbook for high-impact research and technology development to create new products and new jobs for the future.

Senate Appropriators matched the President’s overall $7.26 billion NSF request, while shifting $31 million from agency operations to Research & Related Activities to further boost NSF’s R&D accounts.

NASA was slated for a 2.5 percent increase including a 21 percent bump to aeronautics research and an 11 percent cut to space technology research. One of the Senate priorities was to restore funding for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The Senate also proposes to increase Earth Science research, which faces cuts in the House version.

Under the Senate bill, NIST would receive a 4.1 percent increase ($4 million more than the President’s request and $19 million more than allocated by House appropriators). Senate Appropriators also shifted $5 million requested for support of a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation to cybersecurity-related research.

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The Senate Appropriations bill is slated now for consideration by the full Senate, after which the House and Senate will conference to reconcile their differences over program priorities and funding levels.

House Moderates White House Cuts to Defense S&T

Meanwhile, on 10 June, the House Appropriations Committee also reported its FY 2015 Defense Appropriations Act (H.R., 4870), granting DoD $491 billion in discretionary funding, over $200 million more than requested by the White House.

The House proposal cuts DoD’s basic and applied research allocations by $250 million in order to provide a 3.4 percent increase for Advanced Technology Development (6.3). The balance of development, test and evaluation funding would grow by 0.9 percent or $558 million dollars.

DARPA funding would grow 2.5 percent to $2.8 billion, much less than the White House’s proposed 4.9 percent increase.

Other cuts, especially in DoD-funded medical research, would bring the total defense S&T budget down 3.3 percent overall to $13.1 billion, still substantially better than the President’s $12.2 billion request.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to take up H.R. 4870 on 18 June.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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