Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2013 Funding — How is Science Funding Affected?

Sequestration was not repealed.

The good news is that Congress has finally approved H.R. 933 , FY 2013 Appropriations, after a series of temporary resolutions. This means that science funding agencies can finally make decisions about how to manage their programs between now and Sept. 30, 2013.

In the category of "not good news": the bill sets up nearly $10 billion in cuts to research and development. The bill reduces research and development funding by $506.6 million from FY 2012 levels, according to estimates by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (PDF, 35KB), but because it also leaves sequestration in place, federal R&D may be reduced by $9.6 billion in all below last year’s levels, a 6.9 percent decline.

According to a useful summary by AAAS, Department of Defense (DOD) R&D will be reduced by around $7.0 billion (9.4 percent below FY 2012), with Congress cutting $1.3 billion and sequestration accounting for the rest — though the percentage cut from the Defense Health Program research will be somewhat smaller than that of the DOD overall cuts due to a congressional boost.

Cuts to nondefense research agencies were not uniform. National Science Foundation R&D received an increase of $152 million or 2.7 percent, which would leave the agency's R&D budget only 2.4 percent below FY 2012 levels after sequestration. The political science research program at the National Science Foundation was preserved but with evident restrictions: see Coburn amendment restricts NSF political science funding. And despite a small boost to NIH, sequestration will still leave the agency’s R&D funding roughly $1.4 billion or 4.8 percent below FY 2012 levels.

When adjusted for inflation, these figures put federal R&D investment at its lowest level since FY 2002, and more than $25 billion in constant dollars below the all-time peak in 2010. This represents a roughly 17.1 percent decline in just three years. AAAS’s R&D Budget website has additional details.

The House and Senate passed their respective budgets last week: our next blog post will include an examination of the two chambers’ differing visions for fiscal health and governance.