On 14 February 2011, the President released his official budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2012. As foreshadowed in the State of the Union address, budget increases may be in store for some science agencies such as the National Science Foundation. However, other science agencies, such as the United States Geological Survey may be facing budget cuts. The following provides a quick first look at the top line numbers for some key federal science agencies. More detailed analysis will be released in the near future.

President Proposes Some New Investments, Cuts for NSF

As described in the President’s FY 2012 budget documents, “The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the key Federal grant-making agency responsible for supporting the full breadth of non-biomedical science and technology research at the Nation’s universities and colleges.” Moreover, NSF is responsible for nearly 20 percent of all federally-supported fundamental research conducted by academic institutions and nearly 40 percent of federally-supported non-biomedical university-based research.

In recognition of this and the President’s repeated pledges to invest in innovation, the Administration’s budget request would provide $7.8 billion to NSF, an increase of 13 percent above the FY 2010 enacted appropriation. Of note, however, Congress has yet to complete work on the FY 2011 appropriations and NSF would receive cuts under the House’s current version of the FY 2011 spending bill.

The President’s FY 2012 budget request pledges to reduce costs wherever possible and has proposed eliminating or reducing funding for “lower priority education and research programs that achieved their original goals, showed mixed results, or did not align well with NSF’s core mission responsibilities.” At the same time, the budget would continue to invest in programs to broaden access to science and technology educational opportunities. For instance, the budget would provide $20 million for an “overarching, comprehensive science and technology workforce program to engage Hispanic-serving institutions.” Additionally, the Administration would provide $40 million to initiate a new teacher-training research and development program. From these funds, roughly $20 million would be applied to programs for K-12 teachers and $20 million for undergraduate teachers.

With respect to investments in research, the budget would “support the development of a clean energy economy.” Toward this goal, the President has proposed $998 million for the second year of a cross-agency “Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability initiative that will take an integrated approach to increasing U.S. energy independence, enhancing environmental stewardship, reducing energy and carbon intensity, and generating sustained economic growth.” In addition, the budget would provide a $209 million increase from the 2010 enacted funding level for research in areas that could lead to breakthroughs in clean energy technology. If enacted, the funding for this effort would approach $576 million in FY 2012.

The FY 2012 budget also requests funding to continue building the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). According to White House documents, “The richness and diversity of America’s ecosystem and the oceans that flank America’s coasts have been a critical part of the Nation’s economy and growth throughout history. Accord¬ingly, the Administration proposes $88 million for the second year of construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). NEON will collect data across the United States on the impacts of climate change, land use change, and invasive species on natural resources and biodi¬versity. The Administration also proposes $103 million for the fourth year of construction of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). OOI will consist of an integrated network of deep-sea buoys, regional cabled nodes on the seafloor, and coastal observatories that will provide continu¬ous, interactive access to the ocean.”

The budget request for NSF continues to propose investments in areas that could lay the “groundwork for the industries and jobs of the future and a renaissance in American manufacturing.” Related to this policy objective, the budget proposes $117 million for “cyber-infrastructure” activities that “will accelerate the pace of discovery in all research disciplines, and $12 million for a new program that will fund a suite of activities that promote greater interdisciplinary research.”

At First Look: USGS to Be Cut Under President’s Budget

According to White House budget documents, the President’s FY 2012 budget would provide $12 billion for the Department of the Interior, “a level that is roughly the same as in previous years.” Moreover, the White House states: “This reflects a continued increase in land and water conservation programs—an Administration priority—and an increase for offshore oil drilling oversight in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill. As with all Departments, cuts had to be made in other worthy areas including construction programs for tribal facilities, national parks, wildlife refuges, and public lands.”

Additionally, programmatic increases for conservation and drilling oversight would be offset by cuts to the budget of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Details on the impacts to specific USGS programs will not be available until the agency releases its full FY 2012 budget request, which should happen this week.

A Glance at Other Agencies

  • Environmental Protection Agency would receive roughly $9 billion, a $1.3 billion decrease.
  • Department of the Interior would receive approximately $12 billion, a $92 million decrease.
  • National Institutes of Health would receive roughly $31.8 billion, which would provide a $1.0 billion increase.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive roughly $5.5 billion, which represents an increase of approximately $645 million.
  • United States Department of Agriculture: Agricultural research would decline by roughly $472 million, placing this function at $2.3 billion. However, it appears that the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative could receive a 24 percent increase, brining the program area to roughly $325 million. Increased funding within this area appears to be targeted toward human nutrition and obesity reduction, food safety, sustainable bioenergy, global food security, and climate change.
  • United States Forest Service would be trimmed by $176 million, dropping the agency to $5.1 billion.
  • Department of Energy would receive a 12 percent increase, bringing the agency to $29.5 billion. Within Energy, the Office of Science would grow by $452 million, brining its FY 2012 budget to $5.4 billion.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration would remain at the FY 2010 enacted funding level of $18.7 billion.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology would hit the $1 billion mark, if the proposed $141 million budget increase is appropriated.


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