FY2019 Bills Show Some Gains for Federal Science Funding

Even though Congress only approved spending for FY 2018 in late March, appropriators and their staff did not receive much of a break. The larger budget deal brokered earlier this year outlined overall spending levels for FY 2018 and FY 2019, and spending panels quickly got to work on FY 2019 bills, hoping to avoid another protracted process filled with high-drama shutdowns and threats.  

The last two weeks have seen appropriators act on a number of bills important to CUR, its members, and undergraduate research on campuses nationwide. Last week, the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee approved its plan for next year. The proposal, which is expected to be debated by the full Appropriations Committee in the House on May 17, is a mixed bag, but there is some good news to report.  The funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would grow again. NSF would be funded at $8.2 billion, which is $408 million above the FY 2018 level; of that amount, $902 million would be invested in the programs of the Education and Human Resources Directorate. The plan also proposes NASA funding at $21.5 billion, which is $810 million above the FY 2018 level. Unfortunately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be cut by $751 million to $5.2 billion. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive $985 million, which also reflects a reduction.  

The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee met on May 15 to mark up its FY 2019 spending bill. It would give both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities a slight bump from their FY 2018 spending levels. They each would receive $155 million—reflecting a $2 million increase. The Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education are funded at $3.1 billion in the plan, $40 million above the last year’s level. The Smithsonian Institution would be funded at $1 billion in the bill, up $12 million. Not surprisingly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be cut. The bill would fund the agency at just under $8 billion, about $100 million below the FY 2018 level.  The bill further directs the agency to reduce its regulatory programs and reshape its workforce by offering buyouts to employees, per the White House’s request.

Earlier this month, the FY 2019 Energy and Water spending bill was released by the House panel. The bill includes $6.6 billion for science research—an increase of $340 million above the 2018 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources.

The most complex spending bill—the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations proposal—is not expected to be unveiled until June. Of keen interest to CUR members for this bill would be adequate investments in student aid programs, including TRIO programs, and increased investment in the important work at the National Institutes of Health. The bill would fund numerous agencies and is likely to be politically charged, as it will deal with health care and reproductive rights issues. Thus its development has been slow and its content guarded by staff.  

The House is moving at a fast clip, and the Senate has announced an ambitious schedule beginning the week of May 21. Although congressional representatives would like to get this annual “to-do” item off of their list, final action may be delayed until after the November midterm elections.  During the congressional bill deliberations, CUR is closely watching and expressing its views with respect to pending legislation, building on the April meetings of Posters on the Hill participants with their congressional representatives.



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