Concluding a year-long budget fight laced with numerous veto threats from the Bush Administration, Congress compromised by cutting more than $20 billion in discretionary funds to meet the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 federal budget request. The House of Representatives passed a $473.5 billion omnibus appropriations bill (HR 2764) 17 December, which included $31 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The Senate subsequently added an additional $40 billion for the war in Iraq to bring the total to $555 billion to fund all remaining federal agencies and programs. Included in this final amount is an estimated $15.3 billion in congressional earmarks. Prior to the omnibus, the only spending measure to become law was the FY 2008 Appropriations for the Department of Defense (H.R. 3222) that was signed by the President on 13 November. President Bush has indicated that he will sign the omnibus bill, but has until 31 December to decide. Congress quickly passed another continuing resolution (HJ Res 72) on 19 December to keep the government operational through the end of the year.
Disappointing advocates for federal science programs, research and development funding for several government agencies will be below the amounts proposed by the President, and in some cases approved by houses of Congress earlier this year.
Quickly derailing the multi-year pledge to double funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the FY 2008 omnibus provides NSF with $6.065 billion, $364 million less than the President requested and $434 million and $488 million less than the House and Senate proposed, respectively. Additionally, the omnibus calls for a mandated rescission of $33 million from funds appropriated to NSF in FY 2007. Taken together, this means that the NSF budget will increase just 2 percent over its FY 2007 appropriation of $5.916 billion, below the expected 2.4 percent inflation rate.
The Research and Related Activities account will receive approximately $4.821 billion dollars in FY 2008, only $56.8 million above the FY 2007 appropriation. Of significant concern to biologists, is the estimated 2.9 percent decrease from FY 2007 for the Biological Sciences directorate.
Within the Department of Interior, the omnibus bill provided $1.022 billion for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), lower than the $1.033 billion for USGS approved by the House and slightly more than the $1.010 billion that the Senate approved. Of note, the various biological science programs within the Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) will receive nearly $180 million, with the bulk of this funding allocated to biological research and monitoring ($141.2 million after a mandated rescission), a small increase from the FY 2007 level. Within BRD, contaminant biology will receive $2 million, the National Biological Information Infrastructure will receive $6.85 million, and cooperative research units will receive $16.1 million.
The USGS also received a general program increase of just over $7 million to support global climate change research. This funding was below the requested $10 million. Additionally, Congress has provided that the USGS may use up to $2.5 million of the newly appropriated funding to establish a climate change research center.
Additional analysis of the FY 2008 science agency appropriations will be included in January 2008 Public Policy Reports.
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