APS News

Budget Deal Eases Sequestration for Two Years

Deal could allow higher funding levels for science agencies, and makes a government shutdown unlikely

November 4, 2015  |  Emily Conover

On November 2, President Obama signed the Budget Act of 2015, a two-year budget deal that eases sequestration and raises the debt ceiling through March 2017. The deal makes a government shutdown in the near future less likely, and could spell good news for science budgets in fiscal year 2016.

Sequestration, established by the Budget Control Act of 2011, places caps on both defense and non-defense spending. The new budget deal will lift spending caps by $50 billion in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017, amounts that are equally split between defense and non-defense spending. The increases still fall far short of President Obama's 2016 budget request, which called for $74 billion over the caps on discretionary spending. Additionally, as part of the deal an extra $32 billion will be allocated to Overseas Contingency Operations — money intended for emergency operations — which will be split between the Department of Defense and the State Department over two years.

Science could benefit from the raised spending caps, depending on how the appropriations process shakes out. Lawmakers must hash out the details — likely through an omnibus bill funding the whole government that would go up for a vote in early December. The easing of sequestration could allow more significant budget increases for federal agencies that fund science, including the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and others. However, in fiscal year 2017, funding levels would not keep pace with inflation, and the deal doesn't address years beyond that.

"The good news is there was an agreement, the bad news it doesn't solve the basic problem for more than one year," says APS Director of Public Affairs Michael Lubell.