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The US President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget and What it Means for Research

Monday, February 9, 2015  
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Paula Skedsvold


FABBS Member Societies: The President sent his Fiscal Year 2016 budget request to Congress early last week. With one important exception, it was a positive sign for research. This is only the starting point, however. Congress will now decide how much to spend and where to place the priorities, keeping in mind that they will ultimately need the President’s signature on any spending bills. The Big Picture The $4 trillion budget outlined by the President proposes to eliminate sequester cuts, which return in full force in FY 2016. Recall that the Budget Control Act of 2011 put into place budget caps and sequester cuts for a 10-year period, but the Ryan-Murray agreement in 2013 partially rolled back the sequester cuts for a two-year period, FY 2014 and FY 2015. In FY 2016, the cuts necessary to stay within the caps will be felt, as the spending cap in that year is 17 percent below FY 2010 spending levels. Despite the fact that neither party is comfortable with the automatic cuts, no other agreements are in place, including any that would roll back sequester for next fiscal year or the remaining five years the law is in effect. And some conservative members of Congress would like to see further cuts. In his latest budget, the President would replace the cuts by trimming mandatory and discretionary programs over 10 years and by adding new tax revenues (although there are new signals that he is willing to accept alternatives that do not involve tax revenues). Agency Specifics The President’s budget increases overall discretionary spending by 7% over the spending caps, including an increase in federal R&D of $8 billion or 6%, for a total of $146 billion. Most of the increase lies in development and research infrastructure. Specifically, basic research would increase by 3%, applied research by 4%, development by 7%, and facilities/equipment by 10%. Following are highlights for the agencies of primary interest to our sciences: • NIH: Funding would increase by $1 billion or 3.3% to $31.3 billion over FY 2015. If Congress provides this amount, NIH estimates that it would fund an additional 1,227 Research Project Grants in FY 2016. o Institutes and Centers: A funding table showing increases for each Institute and Center can be found here: o NIH Common Fund: Within the NIH Common Fund, funding for the Science of Behavior Change is reduced by $948,000 in FY 2016 to $5.8 million and Health Economics research is reduced by $1 million to $7.3 million. Priority areas for NIH include: o Basic research, including a $70 million increase for the BRAIN Initiative in FY 2016. o Translational research, including $200 million for a new Precision Medicine initiative that would allow treatments to be tailored to each patient. In addition, the budget includes an additional $51 million for Alzheimer’s Disease research in FY 2016. o Harnessing data and technology to improve health, including a significant investment of over $600 million through 2020 in Big Data to Knowledge awards. In FY 2016, NIH will provide awards to train scientists at all career levels in Big Data science. NIH will also expand investments in comparative effectiveness trials through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). o Preparing a diverse and talented biomedical research workforce. • NSF: Funding would increase by 5.2% to $7.7 billion. The overall research account would improve by 4.3%, and agency operations would jump 9.2% in large part to fund the agency’s move to new facilities within Northern Virginia. o SBE: Increases for directorates under the research account range from 2.2% for Mathematical and Physical Sciences to 7.1% for SBE. SBE would jump $19 million to $291.46 million. Within SBE, the Social and Economic Sciences Division would receive an increase of 7.6%, while the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences Division would increase by 7.7% and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics by 7%. SBE will use a portion of its budget to support cross-directorate activities that include Understanding the Brain ($25 million); Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems ($5 million); Risk and Resilience ($8.5 million); Cyberinfrastructure Framework ($7.26 million); Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace ($4 million); and Urban Science ($2 million). o EHR: The Education and Human Resources Directorate would receive the largest increase within the agency, with a bump of $97 million or 11.2% above FY 2015. The Division of Undergraduate Education would receive an increase of 18%, while the Division of Graduate Education would get a boost of 8.1%. The Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings would increase by 14.2%. • IES: Funding would increase $101.9 million for a total of $675.9 million. Research in special education and support for Regional Education Labs (RELs) would remain flat. IES increases would be split as follows: o Research, Development, and Dissemination: Up $22.4 million o Statistics: Up $21.6 million o Assessment: Up $20.2 million o Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems: Up $35.5 million o Special Education Studies and Evaluations: Up $2.5 million • DoD: Basic research is cut by over 8%, while applied research increases by about 1%. The largest increases for DoD R&D are in development (8%) and facilities/equipment (817%). Next Steps Now that the President’s budget request has been delivered to Congress, House and Senate budget committees and appropriators are mapping out their plans. They are eager to put their own priorities in place. House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-GA), in particular, was critical of the President’s budget and has expressed the need for further reductions in order to balance the budget in a decade. Other Republican leaders would end the sequester cuts for defense and shift the costs to the non-defense discretionary side of the budget, which contains most research funding. With the spending caps still in place and no alternative in sight, it’s hard to imagine that Congress will provide the increases requested by the President for science agencies, at least at the levels proposed. For the behavioral and social sciences, the priority setting by a new Congress working with an austere budget could mean an uphill battle yet again. FABBS is ready to carry the message about the value of our sciences. Please feel free to share the above (and attached) with your members.

Paula Skedsvold, JD PhD
FABBS Government Relations Consultant

  2424 American Lane • Madison, WI 53704-3102 USA
Phone: +1 608-441-1070 • Fax: +1 608-443-2474 • Email:

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