The budget is equal parts “vision” and “negotiating position.”
President Obama released his 2014 budget on April 10. Maintaining the nation’s investments in research and development and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education was a primary theme. The budget request for research and development totaled $142.8 billion, a 1.3 percent increase over fiscal 2012 enacted levels but a small decline when inflation is taken into account. Non-defense research spending would rise to $69.6 billion, a nine percent increase from 2012 levels. That increase would be offset by a significant reduction to the development side of R&D, which would get $71.5 billion, focused mainly on weapons programs at the Pentagon.
White House Office of Science and Technology policy director John P. Holdren told representatives of scientific organizations at an OSTP budget briefing that the request demonstrates the administration’s commitment to scientific research, particularly considering that the overall budget reduces discretionary spending to its lowest share of the economy since President Eisenhower’s administration.
Funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical and Prosthetic Research Program would increase above the FY 2012 enacted levels.
The NIH program level for FY 2014 is $31.331 billion, an increase of $471 million (1.5 percent) over the FY 2012 program level of $30.860 billion. NIH estimates that it will spend $16.9 billion to support 36,610 research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2014, an increase of $382 million and 351 grants over than FY 2012. Within this total, NIH estimates it will support 10,269 new and competing renewal RPGs, an increase of 1,283 grants over FY 2012. Programs emphasized within the NIH budget include: the BRAIN Initiative; opportunities and challenges associated with big data; translational science; and recruiting and retaining diverse scientific talent and creativity.
The administration’s budget requests an appropriation of $7.6 billion for NSF. This is $593 million or 8.4 percent above the FY 2012 enacted level and maintains the administration’s commitment to increase funding for basic research agencies. NSF will invest in a broad portfolio of fundamental inquiry, as well as strategic investments in areas such as cyber infrastructure, clean energy and training. The NSF budget includes focused investments on scientific and engineering training, as well as the cultivation of a globally-competitive high-tech workforce. Other proposals include the consolidation of science, technology and mathematics education programs across the federal government; the expansion of research opportunities for early college students through an increase of $13 million above the 2012 enacted level, to $79 million; and the consolidation of an array of NSF’s graduate education programs into a single $325 million fellowship entity.
The president’s budget reduces funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by over $270 million from the FY 2012 enacted level, for a total program level of $6.895 billion. The president’s request slashes the agency’s actual budget authority by $439, and continues the trend of relying on backfilling from the Prevention and Public Health Fund and other fund transfers. The agency’s Prevention Research Centers program sees a decrease in funding, while the National Center for Health Statistics sees a significant increase.
The VA Medical and Prosthetic Research program would receive $586 million, an increase of $5 million (0.8 percent) above the FY 2012 level. A summary of the proposed VA budget notes that investing in medical and prosthetic research supports efforts to advance the care and quality of life for veterans. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) request proposes $17.7 billion, down a scant 0.3 percent from fiscal 2012’s enacted levels.
Overall the budget would increase spending in 2014 by nearly $160 billion beyond what the Congressional Budget Office projected in February — a result of canceling sequestration and of new spending initiatives. Many of the president’s proposed savings would phase in toward the end of the 10-year budget window, such as the plan to recalculate cost of living increases to reduce entitlement spending. The deficit would drop to $744 billion, or 4.4 percent of GDP — the lowest of the past five years — and continue dropping to 2.8 percent of GDP in 2016 and 1.7 percent in 2023 assuming the economy continues to improve. The accumulated U.S. debt, meanwhile, would rise $8.1 trillion to $25.3 trillion over the decade.
The president positioned his budget to the political right of the budget the Senate approved last month, especially with the inclusion of entitlement reforms, with the expectation that it could serve as a blueprint for a new round of negotiations with the more conservative House leadership on long-term economic policies. However, the Obama budget did not receive a positive reception. The president’s proposed $580 billion in tax increases (including a tobacco tax increase that would pay for a new preschool program for four-year-olds) remains a sticking point.