Looking back on the 2012 budget: Looking forward to 2013

Federal research funding escapes major cuts so far.

Reducing federal spending was a priority in congressional wrangling over the budget last year. During  the past 12 months, Congress has reduced federal spending by about $47 billion, spread over two fiscal years. In April, Congress finally completed Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations (PL 112-10) and reduced discretionary spending by almost $40 billion from the previous year’s level. An additional $7 billion in reductions were adopted in the FY 2012 spending legislation (PL 112-74) enacted in December. (Fiscal years run from October 1 through September 30.)

Research funding in broad terms was reduced slightly in FY 2012. Based on initial analysis from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, total spending on Research & Development for FY 2012 should amount to $142 billion, approximately $1.8 billion or 1.3 percent below FY 2011 levels. It does not appear that behavioral research will get disproportionate increases or decreases within the individual agency budgets below. 

The FY 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act provided only a small overall increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a scant $1 million addition to last year's $30.2 billion R&D budget, after an across-the-board cut was applied. Most research institutes and centers received a one-half percent increase. In the final bill, Congress agreed to establish within NIH the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a priority of NIH Director Francis Collins that will focus on moving fundamental discoveries from lab to clinic. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences will see a $400 million or 19.7 percent increase to allow the Institute to absorb some of the programs formerly housed in the National Center for Research Resources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration will take cuts to their R&D budgets of 11.2 percent and 28.5 percent, respectively.

Department of Defense research and development activities, with the notable exceptions of basic and applied research, will see moderate cuts. Research, Development, Technology and Engineering funding for FY 2012 stands at $72.9 billion, a 3.4 percent drop from last year’s levels. Most of the reductions were in development, demonstration, and support activities. These cuts are partially offset by increases to basic and applied research, which combined will receive a $421 billion or 6.5 percent increase above FY 2011 levels.

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations were enacted in November as part of the appropriations "minibus,” the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (H.R.2112). The National Science Foundation received $7.0 billion, $173 million or 2.5 percent more than in FY 2011. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) received $17.8 billion in the bill, a $648 million or 3.5 percent decrease from last year.

Looking ahead, the President and congressional budget committees will soon prepare and present draft budgets for 2013, and then the House and Senate must agree on a budget. The final budget must align with the discretionary spending cap set by The Budget Control Act (BCA) of $1.047 trillion for FY 2013. Then the appropriations process will begin again.

Also on the horizon, the President must soon request a $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling to allow for federal spending through November 2012. The Budget Control Act provided that the request goes through unless both the House and Senate reject it within 15 days. The President could then veto a rejection resolution, which would require a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers to override (essentially allowing the debt ceiling to go up while Congress is on record as objecting). The request will be offset by the impending sequester that will take effect in January 2013. (As you may recall, this is because the congressional Super Committee was unable to agree on a package of spending reductions and tax increases).

APA’s Science Government Relations Office will continue to work hard for scientific psychology in 2012, supporting the expansion of research programs and policies that support cutting-edge research. You can keep up with news about the federal budget by reading APA’s  Psychological Science Agenda, Science Policy Insider News and Federal Budget Blog.

This article reposted from the January 2012 issue of Psychological Science Agenda, Vol. 26, No. 1.