APS News

2016 Budget Boosts Funding for Science in U.S.

By Emily Conover

In mid-December, U.S. lawmakers finally ironed out the details of the 2016 budget, and science “fared reasonably well,” says APS Director of Public Affairs Michael Lubell. The $1.1-trillion omnibus spending bill lays out the funding landscape for government agencies through September 2016. Thanks to the budget deal Congress hashed out in October, which rolled back spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011, the bill increases overall discretionary spending by 5.2 percent above 2015, and for the most part, science funding agencies received a fair share of the increase.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science received a boost of 5.6 percent. The biggest winner within the Office of Science was Advanced Scientific Computing Research, which received a 14.8 percent increase, in a strong show of support for advanced supercomputing. On the other hand, the U.S. contribution to ITER, the international fusion project in France, is capped at $115 million, and the bill requests a report from the Secretary of Energy on the future of the project.

NASA was a big winner, with a 7.1 percent increase overall and a 6.6 percent increase to its science programs. Planetary science received the largest increase of NASA’s science programs, at 13.4 percent. And the National Institutes of Health received a hefty increase of nearly $2 billion.

The National Science Foundation received a relatively small increase of 1.6 percent, but avoided large cuts that had been proposed for geosciences and social sciences, although social sciences funding was held flat.

The Department of Defense’s science and technology programs received a significant 8.2 percent increase, but basic research saw only a 1.4 percent increase. The National Institute of Standards and Technology received an 11.6 percent bump, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received a 5.8 percent increase.

Next year’s budget is now in the works. As APS News went to press, President Obama’s 2017 budget request to Congress was scheduled for release on February 9. Thanks to the October budget deal, the 2017 budget will be “essentially a cost of living increase,” says Lubell, and “the expectation will be that both the president and Congress are likely not to do too much tinkering.”

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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Emily Conover
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Art Director and Special Publications Manager: Kerry G. Johnson
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik