Sciences lose in federal budget deal

April 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

$2.2 billion in cuts to science-related agencies

Figures in millions of dollars. Courtesy of Nature.com

With federal lawmakers reaching a deal this week about the 2011 fiscal year, research and development took a hit. Lawmakers agreed to preserve the maximum Pell Grant, but cut a lot of research and education programs.

Originally, it was predicted that organizations like the NSF could see a 13 percent budget increase, but that was not the case in this deal. The NSF saw its research account trimmed by $53 million, to $5.51 billion, and its education directorate saw $12 million cut from its $873 million budget in 2010.

Although these cuts for the sciences could have been worse, as Republicans had originally proposed a $1.4 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health and a $359.5 million cut from the National Science Foundation, President Obama also said his administration would no longer plan to double NSF’s budget in the next 11 years. The graph above, from Nature.com, shows exact cuts that were made to various scientific organizations.

“Bigger budget battles may lie ahead,” reported Kelly Field of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “During the next few months, Congress will have to negotiate a spending bill for fiscal year 2012, which starts on October 1, and decide whether to raise the limit on what the government can borrow.”

The budget deal gives the NSF an overall budget of $6.81 billion for fiscal year 2011, which runs until September 30. As a result of the budget decrease, NSF officials expect to make 134 fewer awards and support 1500 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel than the agency did last year. However, these numbers are not set in stone, as the NSF is also required to submit a detailed spending plan signed by Director Subra Suresh, Ph.D., to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees within 60 days of enactment of the budget agreement.

Other scientific agencies seeing budget changes:

FDA’s budget would climb 4%, from $2.452 billion in FY ’11 from $2.345 billion in FY ’10. FDA’s budget would be 14% above the $2.104 billion sought by the House.

• The Office of Science, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, would lose $35 million, leaving it with $4.88 billion in FY ’11, or $866 million more than what the House approved. President Obama’s FY ’12 budget proposal would raise that funding to about $5.4 billion. Of the cuts, $16.6 million will come from a contractor pay freeze instituted by the department, while $15 million will come from unobligated balances from past years’ appropriations.

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