Federal non-defense, discretionary science agencies and other programs are likely to be cut by 8.2 percent in January unless lawmakers take action to prevent budget sequestration. The automatic, across-the-board reductions would affect the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Interior, among others, according to a report from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released on 14 September 2012. Research and development programs at the Department of Defense, including medical and environmental research, would be subject to a 9.4 percent cut.

The OMB budget sequestration report was produced in response to a congressional directive passed over the summer. According to the OMB report, NSF would be slashed by $586 million, an amount comparable to three-quarters of the budget for the Biological Sciences Directorate. NIH would likely fund 700 fewer grants as a result of a $2.5 billion cut. The budget for the United States Geological Survey would be trimmed by at least $88 million. It is anticipated that agricultural research and education at the Department of Agriculture would be cut by $150 million. Science and technology at the Environmental Protection Agency could be reduced by $65 million; this is about as much as the agency spends on ecosystem research.

Department of Defense programs, including various medical and environmental research and development programs, will be subject to a 9.4 percent reduction.

Dr. Susan Stafford, president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, expressed concern for the nation’s scientific and educational systems if indiscriminate, across the board budget cuts are implemented in January 2013.

“Sequestration is bad for our nation’s scientific research and development enterprise. These arbitrary cuts to federal research programs will slow innovation, hinder economic growth, and do nothing to help prepare the next generation for good paying jobs,” said Stafford. “The report from the Office of Management and Budget illustrates the negative impacts on our scientific research programs if budget sequestration occurs in January. The answer to our fiscal and budget challenges is not reckless budget cuts that will hurt environmental monitoring programs or slow medical research. New economic opportunities are born from research. As someone who has managed scientific research programs, I have to say that it is unwise to carelessly cut on-going research and science education programs. We must take a long-term, balanced, and responsible approach to rebuilding our fiscal house.”

The Obama Administration and some members of Congress have sounded the alarm about the negative impacts of sequestration on America’s delicate economic recovery. The OMB report states: “no amount of planning can mitigate the significant impact of the sequestration. The destructive across-the-board cuts required by the sequestration are not a substitute for a responsible deficit reduction plan. The President has already presented two proposals for balanced and comprehensive deficit reduction, but under our Constitution, he cannot do the job alone. Congress also needs to act. The Administration remains ready to work with Congress to enact a balanced plan that achieves at least the level of deficit reduction agreed to in the BCA [Budget Control Act], and cancels the sequestration.”


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