If all goes according to plan, the FY 2009 appropriations cycle will be over by the end of January. House and Senate Appropriations Committee members and staff are now preparing an omnibus funding bill for formal approval by the appropriations committees after the new Congress convenes on January 6. Following the bill's passage on the House and Senate floors it will ready for the signature of President-elect Barack Obama after his inauguration on January 20.
Expect this FY 2009 funding bill to move on a fast track. Most Members of Congress and the incoming Obama Administration are focused on a massive economic stimulus bill, and are working to clear the way for its consideration by finalizing action on the omnibus bill.
Reports indicate that the appropriators plan to maintain the overall spending levels of the initial versions of the FY 2009 bills that were drafted earlier this year. Although much still remains unknown about the appropriators' thinking (especially in the House where the process was suspended), general indications point to a guardedly positive outcome for most science budgets. It is important to remember that all figures are in play until the final omnibus funding bill is approved on the House and Senate floors.
Where information is available, it is notable that the appropriators recommended significant increases in some science agency budgets. Although this was also true last year at this time, Congress was ultimately forced to slash funding levels because of disagreements with President Bush about the overall level of spending. That will not be the case as the FY 2009 appropriations cycle comes to a close since the Democratic congressional leadership and President-elect Obama seem to be largely on the same page. Any disagreement is likely to be over earmarked funds, and not the overall level of discretionary spending.
The following is a brief summary of the status of the FY 2009 appropriations bills of greatest interest to the physical sciences community:
The Defense Appropriations Bill is one of only three bills passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. It provides a 6.4 percent increase for the three defense science and technology programs (6.1, 6.2, and 6.3.) Of special note is the 12.7 percent increase in funding for 6.1 basic research. This appropriations bill is final; for further detail see more.
DOE Office of Science:
House appropriators voted their approval of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee in late June, but never released the committee report. The bill contains a 20.5 percent increase for the Office of Science (more .) Senate appropriators approved a bill with a 15.0 percent increase (more.)
National Science Foundation:
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their versions of the bill funding NSF (and NASA and NIST) in June. The Senate bill provides an increase of 13.0 percent (more.) House appropriators have not released their committee report detailing their funding recommendations.
Both committees approved their bills, but only the Senate has released its report. Senate appropriators recommended an increase of 2.8 percent in NASA's budget, but recommended a 3.9 percent funding reduction for Science (more.)
As is the case for NSF and NASA, only the Senate numbers are available. Senate appropriators recommended an increase of 7.6 percent in the overall NIST budget, and an increase of 11.1 percent for the Scientific and Technical Research and Services budget (more.)
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering:
Senate appropriators recommended an increase of 2.9 percent for NIBIB, and an overall 3.1 percent increase for the National Institutes of Health (more.) The House has not acted.
Department of Education:
Senate appropriators recommended flat funding for the Math and Science Partnership Program. See more for further information on this and related programs. The House has not acted.
U.S. Geological Survey:
Neither the House or Senate Appropriations Committees have voted on their bills.