After months of negotiations, Congress finally approved a $915 billion deal to fund a major portion of the federal government through fiscal year (FY) 2012. The so-called ‘megabus’—a collection of nine appropriations bills—will fund the Departments of Defense, Energy, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor, and State, as well as numerous independent agencies. The legislation (HR 2055) won bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress and is soon expected to be signed into law by President Obama.
Notably, the megabus includes a second consecutive year of budget cuts for many programs. According to documents from Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee: “When all FY 2012 Appropriations legislation is complete, Congress will have cut discretionary spending for two straight years in a row - the first time this has occurred in modern history. In fact, the enactment of the final Appropriations legislation will mark a savings of nearly $31 billion in total discretionary spending compared to last year’s level and a savings of $95 billion compared to FY 2010.”
Despite overall budget reductions, several agencies will receive increased funding. For instance, military spending will increase by $5.1 billion over last year’s level. Most programs, however, will not receive the amount of funding requested by the Obama Administration earlier this year.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive an increase of $299 million, for a total spending level of $30.7 billion. Congress also made clear that it wants NIH to continue to spend 90 percent of its budget on external grants.
Funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science will increase by $46 million to $4.9 billion. Despite a push by the House to cut funding for Biological and Environment Research, the program will operate with the same funding level it had last year.
Most science and environmental programs will be funded at smaller levels than in FY 2011. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be cut by $233 million, including a six percent reduction to clean air and climate research programs. Congress included funds for EPA to conduct a long-term evaluation of the agency’s laboratory network to “ensure the current organization matches the Agency’s strategic needs.” This directive follows a recommendation made by the Government Accountability Office.
Within the Department of the Interior, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) will lose $13.9 million. The Ecosystems division will be essentially flat funded, although programmatic funding within the division will change. Monitoring, fisheries, and Cooperative Research Units will be trimmed slightly so that programs on invasive species, and terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments can be increased by 21 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. Climate Science Centers will receive $4.6 million in new funding, but climate research and development will be cut by $6.4 million.
The budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will remain at $1.5 billion. Although the National Wildlife Refuges will be trimmed 1.1 percent, cooperative landscape conservation and adaptive science will increase slightly. The Cooperative Endangered Species Fund will be cut by $12.1 million relative to last year. Funding for the National Park Service will also remain essentially flat at $2.6 billion.
Forest and Rangeland Research at the United States Forest Service will be reduced by 3.5 percent.
The House of Representatives also passed a bill last week that would have further reduced FY 2012 discretionary spending by 1.8 percent in order to offset the costs of a disaster relief package. The Senate, however, balked at the offsets and rejected the measure.
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