“Regrettable Reductions”: Senate Appropriators on FY 2012 S&T Funding

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Publication date: 
19 September 2011

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“These  are regrettable reductions that will result in real consequences.”  So state the members of the Senate Commerce,  Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee in describing recommended  reductions of approximately 3 percent that were made to the FY 2012 budgets of  the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science  Foundation, and NASA. 

The  following selections are from Senate Report 112-78 accompanying S. 1572, the FY  2012 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  Future issues of FYI will provide selections  from the 26 pages in the report regarding NSF, NASA, and NIST; see FYI #111  for summary numbers.

The  initial pages of the Senate report provide insight into the perspective of Senate  appropriators as they drafted their FY 2012 bill.  Selections follow:

“For  fiscal year 2012, the Committee recommends total discretionary appropriations  of $52,701,000,000, along with an additional $135,000,000 in funding for  natural disasters, for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and  Related Agencies. This amount is $626,000,000 below the fiscal year 2011 level  and $4,969,684,000 below the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget request.  These reductions, made pursuant to the Budget  Control Act of 2011, [that was enacted following this summer’s intense  negotiations between the Administration and Congress] required the Committee to  reduce nearly every account in the bill below fiscal year 2011 levels. 

“Within  the amounts provided, the Committee has chosen to prioritize activities that  save lives, protect the safety of our citizens, and create jobs.

“The  Committee faced two very pressing funding challenges that are critical to life  and safety -- funding for the Nation’s next generation weather satellites for  timely and accurate forecasts of severe weather, and adequate funding to safely  guard the Nation’s growing prison population. While these activities are not  considered mandatory for budget purposes, they are not truly discretionary in that  the Committee has an obligation to adequately fund them regardless of budgetary  constraints.

“The  Committee’s recommendation for the Joint Polar Satellite System [JPSS], which  will provide timely data for more accurate severe weather forecasts, is nearly  $437,000,000 more than fiscal year 2011 to enable the earliest possible launch  in order to minimize any gap in weather data. Salaries and associated expenses  for guarding and transporting the Federal prison population are funded at more  than $350,000,000 more than fiscal year 2011 to ensure that our Federal prisons  are adequately staffed and to enable the activation of new prisons that have  been built but are currently sitting empty due to lack of funds.

“Funding  these pressing challenges within current budgetary constraints required  reductions for activities that the Committee has historically chosen to fund. 

“Specifically,  the bill eliminates 30 programs funded in prior years. Personnel and operations  funding for the departments, agencies, and commissions funded in this bill are  reduced by approximately 2 percent below fiscal year 2011 levels, with the  expectation that agencies must become more frugal, and can and should achieve  efficiencies in all operations. Funding for grant programs and scientific  research is reduced even further.

“These  are regrettable reductions that will result in real consequences.  For example, in the area of funding for State  and local law enforcement, the Committee’s recommendation provides roughly $2,300,000,000,  which is more than $470,000,000 below fiscal year 2011, a nearly 17 percent  reduction. . . .”

“In  the area of scientific discovery and development of new technologies, the  Committee’s recommendation constitutes an approximately 3 percent reduction to  research at NIST and NSF, and to NASA. In past years, the Committee has been  able to recommend an annual 7 percent increase in NIST and NSF funding as  authorized by the bipartisan America COMPETES Act. Reductions to NSF research  will result in 380 fewer grants supporting 4,400 fewer researchers, students,  teachers, and technical support personnel.   Reductions to NASA at this critical time in the agency’s transition from  the space shuttle legacy to new vehicles for human spaceflight will challenge  the agency to make every dollar count.

“The  Committee’s recommendation also reduces funding for economic and trade agencies  below fiscal year 2011 levels, which will restrict new economic initiatives. .  . .”

“While  the Committee regrets the reductions, the recommended bill reflects the  Committee’s strong commitment to protecting life and safety, while continuing  healthy levels of investment for scientific research and discovery and  supporting an innovation friendly government to foster job creation and to  protect the ideas we develop.

“The  bill fully funds the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office [PTO], which fosters  American innovation and job creation by providing protections for ideas and  products developed by our entrepreneurs, businesses, and academic institutions.  . . .”

“For  science and basic research at NSF, NIST, and NASA, the bill invests more than  $12,000,000,000 to support America’s next generation of scientists, engineers,  and entrepreneurs. At NSF, the bill will support more than 225,000 researchers,  students, teachers, and  technical support personnel.

“Within  the science agencies, the Committee has focused on high impact research and  development. For example, the bill funds cyber security research at NIST and  NSF to keep American Government and private sector networks strong, and to respond  to growing cyber threats. The bill also supports growing new American businesses  by funding the Regional Innovation Program at the [Commerce Department’s] Economic  Development Administration. The bill invests in our Nation’s new space launch  system to send our astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, and invests in new  industries to safely deliver them to and from the International Space Station.

“The  Committee also continues to emphasize assistance to expand export markets for  U.S. businesses overseas. The bill continues to invest in the Department of  Commerce’s efforts to promote U.S. companies overseas which have a direct  connection to creating jobs at home. . . . ”

“So  while the overall CJS [Commerce, Justice Science FY 2012] appropriations bill  is below fiscal year 2011 levels, and many programs are reduced, the bill  continues to have significant impacts on U.S. job creation -- now and into the  future.”

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