The AIBS Public Policy Office (PPO) provides members of the biological sciences community with timely information about developments in the federal budget and appropriations process. Additionally, AIBS policy staff work to ensure that federal lawmakers understand how their actions relative to federal spending for scientific research impact biological sciences research and education. To this end, AIBS routinely provides formal and informal testimony to decision-makers in Congress and the Administration.
This portion of the AIBS website provides AIBS members with information and resources about the federal budget and appropriations process, with a primary focus on the agencies and programs supporting organismal and environmental biology research and science education. Additional information is reported every two weeks via the widely read AIBS Public Policy Report and through the monthly Washington Watch column in the journal BioScience.
The federal budget has two practical purposes. One, the budget provides a financial record of federal revenue and expenditures. Two, the budget articulates the nation's priorities by allocating limited discretionary funds to various federal programs, such as funding for the National Science Foundation, US Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, and so forth.
The federal budget process includes the Presidential (Administration or Executive Branch) budget and the congressional budget. These budgets establish the framework within which congress appropriates funding to specific departments and programs.
Each spring, the Administration begins to work with federal agencies to prepare the budget requests for the following fiscal year. For example, federal agencies were working to develop their fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget during the spring of 2009. The federal fiscal year runs from 1 October through 30 September.
The President then sends a budget request to Congress each year on the first Monday of February. (FY 2012 President's Budget was released February 14, 2010). It is important to remember that it is only a spending plan and is not set in law. It is not uncommon for Congress to make adjustments to a President's budget, particularly if the Congress and White House are controlled by different political parties with significant policy differences.
The congressional budget process begins with the receipt of the President's budget. Through the House and Senate Budget Committees, Congress considers the budget request. Both chambers of Congress then convene hearings to receive testimony from Administration officials, non-governmental policy experts, and other stakeholders. The outcome of these deliberations is a budget resolution (ultimately, a Concurrent Resolution when adopted by both chambers of Congress). Concurrent resolutions are non-binding (lack the force of law) and are not sent to the President.
After receiving testimony, reports from the Congressional Budget Office, and other information, the Budget Committee in each chamber drafts a congressional budget plan through a series of "mark-ups" designed to allow Members of Congress to introduce their own budget plans or offer amendments to the current budget plan. After the mark-up, the Budget Committee reports a concurrent resolution on the budget. Once differences between the House and Senate versions have been reconciled, the Congress adopts a common plan.
See the budget process (56 KB PDF)
Following adoption of the budget resolution, the appropriations process originates in the House Appropriations Committee. Subcommittees "mark-up" the various (12 separate) appropriations legislation, each providing funds for specific federal Departments and programs. Once approved by the Appropriations Committee, the appropriations legislation is sent to the full House of Representatives for consideration and subsequently the passed version is sent to the Senate. The House and Senate versions are rarely the same. Thus, a "conference" process is established in which leaders from both chambers work to reconcile differences in the legislation. Once a reconciled version of the legislation is approved by the House and Senate, the measure is sent to the President to be signed into law or vetoed.