Running far behind schedule, the House Appropriations Committee has begun work on the twelve spending bills that would fund the federal government in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Since 24 June, six proposals have advanced from subcommittees. Of interest to many in the scientific community, the measure that would appropriate funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and several other science agencies was approved by the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee on 29 June 2010.

If enacted, the CJS bill would provide $32.8 billion for science, technology, and innovation and $1.5 billion for science education. According to Subcommittee Chairman Alan Mollohan (D-WV): “The Subcommittee recommendation continues to provide resources consistent with the doubling path identified for NSF and NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] in the COMPETES Act. It also considers the science and research conducted at NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] as critical to the Nation’s science enterprise as that performed by the NSF and NIST, and investments are recommended accordingly.”

The proposal would allocate $7.424 billion to NSF in FY 2011, $498 million more than last year and the same amount requested by the President. Within this funding, $5.96 billion is designated for Research and Related Activities, a 6 percent increase over FY 2010. Education and Human Resources at NSF would increase by almost 10 percent to $958.4 million. Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would increase by $47.9 million to $165.2 million. The bill would also provide a 17 percent increase to for NOAA. Details on how the funding would be allocated among NOAA’s programmatic activities have not yet been released, although the $5.5 billion budget for the agency would be dominated by spending for the acquisition of climate and weather satellites.

The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies spending bill was approved on 30 June 2010 by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. The bill would fund several research programs at the Department of Agriculture. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which supports agricultural research, extension, and education activities, would receive $1.36 billion in FY 2011, a 1 percent increase. NIFA replaced the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service in 2009. Within NIFA, competitive, extramural research supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would increase by 19 percent to $312 million. Although this funding level would represent the program’s largest appropriation to date, it is significantly less than the $429 million proposed by President Obama in his budget request. The Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.2 billion, a three percent decrease from FY 2010.

Given Congress’ late start on FY 2011 appropriations and the relatively few number of days on the legislative calendar before the November elections, many in Washington speculate that few, if any, individual spending bills will be enacted this year. Rather, the bills could be bundled into a single “omnibus” appropriations bill. In the past, such a move has not resulted in favorable budgets for science agencies.

 


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