President’s budget favors R & D — but not much

Bottom line: NIH even, NSF up, CDC and DoD results mixed.

The Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget arrived on Capitol Hill on February 13, 2012, adhering to the caps adopted in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Federal department heads held briefings to explain the proposed numbers to legions of interested parties such as your bloggers. So, direct to you from the mouths of Cabinet officers and other important people, here is a quick summary of the 2013 budget:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) - level-funded at $30.86 billion.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) — up 4.8% to $7.4 billion, which is $340 million above the 2012 enacted level.
  • Department of Defense (DoD) — basic research account slightly up, applied research accounts cut.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — research slightly increased from $581 million in FY 2012 to $583 million in FY 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — $6.56 billion, $660 million below last year’s budget authority.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) — $17.7-billion, down 0.5 percent.

While there is widespread relief that the NIH budget was not cut, flat-funding is hardly considered good news. There is some ‘new’ funding in the budget, including $80 million designated for Alzheimer’s research tapped from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (created by the Affordable Care Act). The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research is level-funded at $27 million.

In a tough budget year, NSF’s solid increase reflects the President’s commitment to doubling the three major federal (non-NIH) basic science agencies — NSF, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Every scientific field across NSF would see an increase for core disciplinary research in this budget, including the behavioral and social sciences.

Within DoD, the basic research account (known as the 6.1 level) would see a $2 million increase over FY 2012 for a total of $2.1 billion, whereas the applied research accounts (6.2 and 6.3 levels) would see cuts of $260 million and $45 million respectively. The Medical and Prosthetic Research account within the VA would get a very slight (0.3%) increase from $581 million in FY 2012 to $583 million in FY13.

The President’s budget includes about $6.56 billion for CDC, with a total budget authority of only $4.99 billion, a decrease in budget authority by more than $660 million below FY 2012 — this means a 22 percent reduction in the agency’s budget authority from FY 2010. The rest of CDC funds would come from the Prevention and Public Health Fund ($903 million) and transfers from HHS ($667.5 million). The Prevention and Public Health Fund, which has seen recent attacks on the Hill by legislators who call it a “slush fund,” sees a $4 billion cut over the next 10 years in the President’s Budget.

Within the Department of Education, the President’s budget proposed $620 million for the research, development, dissemination and evaluation activities of the Institute of Education Sciences, which would restore funding for research and development to the FY 2010 levels. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research would receive $106 million under the president’s plan, including $69.6 million for continuation of grants made in previous years and $26.2 million for new awards in FY 2013.

What’s next? The House and Senate Budget Committees will hold hearings on the President’s budget this week with Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients. The House plans to release a budget in March, and bring it to the floor before the end of that month. Typically, appropriators don’t officially release bills until Congress adopts a joint budget resolution, or when a deal is not reached — as will almost certainly be the case this year—until after May 15.