House Budget Plan Would Cut FY 2012 Science Funding to 2008 Level

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Publication date: 
13 April 2011

Later this week the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a spending blueprint that will guide the FY 2012 appropriations process.   It is fully expected that there are enough votes in the Republican-controlled House to pass this bill and that the Democratic-controlled Senate will reject it.  This budget resolution calls for a 4.2 percent reduction, as compared to the FY 2011 Administration request, in total FY 2012 funding for the National Science Foundation, general science programs at the Department of Energy, for all NASA programs except its aviation program (which is in a different budget category) and for the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.

As described in the House Budget Committee’s, “The Path to Prosperity, Restoring America’s Promise,”  “this budget starts to restore spending discipline to a government that badly needs it by returning non-security discretionary spending to well below 2008 levels.” 

Accompanying the FY 2012 “concurrent budget resolution” is a 189-page report prepared by the Budget Committee.  The following is the complete section of this report pertaining to general science, space and technology spending, which is known as “Function 250”:


Function Summary

“The largest component of this function - about half of total spending - is for the space flight, research, and supporting activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA].  The function also contains general science funding, including the budgets for the National Science Foundation [NSF], the Department of Energy [DOE] Office of Science, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.

“Spending for this function has grown by about 9 percent since the start of the administration. The stimulus bill also provided about $1.0 billion for NASA, $3.0 billion for NSF, and $1.6 billion for DOE’s Office of Science.

Summary of Committee-Reported Resolution

“The resolution calls for $27.5 billion in budget authority and $29.8 billion in outlays in fiscal year 2012. Nearly all the spending in the function is discretionary, which totals $27.3 billion in 2012 budget authority, and $29.7 billion in outlays. Mandatory budget authority in 2012 is $119 million, with $123 million in related outlays.  The 10-year totals for budget authority and outlays are $282.0 billion and $284.5 billion, respectively.

“The budget builds on H.R.1 by reducing excess and unnecessary spending, while supporting core government responsibilities.

“The resolution preserves basic research, providing stable funding for NSF to conduct its authorized activities. The budget also recognizes the vital strategic importance of the United States to remain the pre-eminent space-faring Nation. In the President’s request, the administration shifted priorities away from the 2010 NASA authorization, allocating about $2 billion to commercial cargo and crew and Earth Science climate change initiatives. The budget realigns funding in accordance with the NASA authorization and its specified spending limits to support robust space capability.

Illustrative Discretionary Spending Option

“The committees of jurisdiction will determine policies to align with the spending levels in the resolution. The option below is offered as an illustration of the kinds of proposals that can help meet the budget’s fiscal guidelines.

Restore Core Government Responsibilities. The stimulus bill provided $1.6 billion, $800 million of which is currently unspent, for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Included were some areas, such as biological and environmental research, that could potentially crowd out private investment. The resolution levels support preserving the Office of Science’s original role as a venue for groundbreaking scientific discoveries, while paring back applied and commercial research and development.”

The committee approved the budget resolution on April 6 on a strictly party-line basis.  During the committee’s twelve-hour consideration of the budget resolution, an amendment was offered by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) to increase FY 2012 Function 250 budget authority by $12 billion to expand scientific research and development.  This amendment was defeated by a strictly party-line vote. 

A table in the committee report shows the Administration’s FY 2011 request for Function 250 budget authority is $28.649 billion. 

The same table shows that resolution’s FY 2012 budget authority figure for Function 250 is $27.452 billion.  This is a decline of $1.197 billion, or 4.2 percent.

The Function 250 figure for FY 2008 was $27.446 billion. 

House passage of this budget resolution does not mandate a spending reduction for Function 250 for FY 2012.  It is nearly certain that the Senate will not pass the House resolution, and it does not have the force of law.  The House budget resolution will set a cap on total discretionary spending for House appropriators.  For domestic discretionary programs this total spending cap is below the FY 2008 level.  What House approval of this resolution will indicate is that the budget battle that has delayed passage of final appropriations legislation for this fiscal year – now into its seventh month – will continue as Congress works on appropriations bills for the new fiscal year that starts on October 1.

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