Next Year’s Federal Science Budget Nears Approval
June 6, 2014
Controversial provisions tacked onto science funding legislation were rejected by the full House of Representatives, while a committee of the Senate has now passed its version of the science budget.
Congress is moving briskly towards authorizing funding for many of the United States' science agencies. On June 5, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed its version of the 2015 budget for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, just days after the full House passed its version.
The House version included a 3.1 percent increase for the NSF over their 2014 budget, a bump 1.9 percent bigger than the president's request. Within the NSF, the mathematical and physical science directorate received an increase of about 4.5 percent, one of the bigger increases over last year's amounts. NASA too got a 1.4 percent increase over 2014, and a more modest increase of 2.5 percent over the president's request, which would have shrunk the space agency's budget. NIST is slated for a small 0.9 percent increase over 2014 but is about 5 percent less than the president's request, though their science and research services are actually getting the biggest bump within the institute, about 3 percent over 2014.
The National Science Foundation budget is overshadowed somewhat by the controversial Frontiers in Science Research and Technology Act, or FIRST Act, which the House Science Committee approved on May 28. The FIRST Act authorizes a smaller budget than what was approved by the House's budget and imposes numerous restrictions to the NSF grant application process. Within the so-called Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) bill passed on May 30th, the NSF's Social Behavioral and Economic sciences directorate received the deepest cut from the president's request, about 5.6 percent. This same directorate has also been targeted in the FIRST act for even deeper cuts. None of the proposed grant application restrictions contained in the FIRST Act made it into the House's CJS budget, and it is unlikely that a similar version of the FIRST Act would pass the Senate.
Currently, the Senate's version of the CJS budget closely resembles the president's budget request. As of yet, the Senate has not scheduled a vote for the final version of its bill. Once the Senate's version is passed, the two versions go to a reconciliation conference committee, which will likely split the difference in funding levels between the two bills.