When Congress returns to Washington next week it will have much on its plate: a health care reform bill, climate change legislation, and a financial services regulation bill. At the top of Congress’ must-do list will be passage of twelve appropriations bills to fund the operations of the federal government beginning on October 1.
Congress is much further along in the appropriations cycle than it was last year at this time. The House Appropriations Committee completed all twelve of its bills and secured their passage on the House floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee completed eleven bills, needing only to write its version of the FY 2010 Defense bill. Only five of the committee’s eleven bills have been passed on the floor, and the outlook for speedy passage of the rest is uncertain because Senate floor procedures favor longer debate.
Failure to enact any of the appropriations bills will require a short term funding bill called a continuing resolution. These resolutions generally maintain spending at current rates for fixed periods of time, and several may be needed. If Congress is unable to pass any of the bills separately appropriators will combine the remaining bills into a single large omnibus funding bill.
The following is a brief summary of the status of the appropriations bills of greatest interest to the physics community. The expected outcome for most FY 2010 budgets is for increases of, at most, a few percentage points. Additional detail is available here.
Department of Defense:
The House-passed bill would reduce total science and technology program funding by 2.3 percent, opposing the Administration’s request for a 13.6 percent reduction (which would not continue funding for earmarked projects.) The House also opposed a requested 2.4 percent cut in the FY 2010 budget for Basic Research funding, voting to increase it by 4.8 percent.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has not approved its version of this legislation.
Department of Education:
There are a number of programs of interest, one of which is the Math and Science Partnerships for which the Administration requested flat funding. Senate appropriators agreed with the Administration’s request. The House amended the House Appropriations Committee bill to include a 3 percent increase for the Partnerships, the first increase since FY 2006.
Department of Energy - National Nuclear Security Administration:
The NNSA budget for Weapons Activities is unlikely to change much in FY 2010. The Administration sought a 0.4 percent reduction. The House-passed bill would make a cut of 1.4 percent. The Senate-passed bill would increase the budget by 0.9 percent.
Department of Energy - Office of Science:
The parameters of the final budget outcome for the Office of Science are in place. The House-passed bill provided the Administration’s requested increase of 3.9 percent. The Senate-passed bill contains a 3.0 percent increase.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, in a bill that has not been considered on the Senate floor, concurred with the Administration’s 5.1 percent requested increase. The House approved a bill that would increase the agency’s budget by 2.4 percent.
The NASA science budget is likely to stay approximately flat. The Administration asked for a 0.6 percent reduction. The House bill would reduce the budget by 0.2 percent; the Senate Appropriations Committee bill includes a 0.3 percent reduction.
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering:
The Obama Administration requested a 1.5 increase for this unit of the National Institutes of Health. The House voted for a 3.4 percent increase, while the Senate Appropriations Committee bill that has not been considered on the floor would increase the budget by 1.7 percent.
National Institute of Standards and Technology:
There is greater divergence in the parameters for the total NIST budget. The Administration requested an increase of 3.3 percent. The House voted a 4.6 percent reduction. Senate appropriators recommend a 7.3 percent increase.
NIST’s Scientific and Technical Research and Services budget stands out from the other budgets covered in this FYI. The Administration requested a 13.3 percent increase for FY 2010. The House-passed bill would increase the budget by 8.1 percent. Senate appropriators recommended an increase of 10.2 percent, with a portion of this funding being provided for congressionally designated projects.
National Science Foundation:
The Administration requested an 8.5 percent increase in the foundation’s total budget. The House and Senate agreed that the budget should be increased, although not by that much. The House voted for a 6.9 percent increase; Senate appropriators for a 6.6 percent increase.
U.S. Geological Survey:
The Administration and Congress are in fairly close alignment on next year’s budget for the survey. The request was for a 5.2 percent increase, which the House agreed to. Senate appropriators would increase the budget by 5.8 percent.