Funding for ’14 boosts research budgets

Omnibus spending bill set to clear Congress this week.

We begin 2014 with some positive news. House and Senate appropriators have negotiated an omnibus bill that will fund the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2014 (through Sept. 30, 2014). The bill is an amalgam of all 12 appropriations bills. After the House and Senate in December approved the Bipartisan Budget Act that set spending limits for FY 2014 and 2015, Appropriations Committee Chairs Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., worked to craft H.R. 3547, a bill that most observers believe will pass both chambers of Congress. The bill comes to the House floor today.

H.R. 3547 (PDF, 2.74MB) dedicates $1.1 trillion to defense and nondefense programs in FY 2014. The overall spending level is comparable to that during the last year of President George W. Bush’s administration in FY 2008.

The bill provides the National Institutes of Health with $29.9 billion, which is $714 million less than the 2013 pre-sequester level but $1.0 billion (3.5 precent) more than the post-sequester level. The Senate Appropriations Committee Democratic summary states: “This amount should allow the NIH to continue all current research programs and begin approximately 385 additional research studies and trials.” As you recall, NIH reported that it funded 640 fewer research grants in fiscal year 2013 than in FY 2012 because of sequestration.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which was exempt from sequestration, would see a $3 million increase in its research budget. The bill includes $585.7 million in FY 2014 for VA intramural research, compared to an enacted FY 2013 level of $583.7 million.

The legislation provides $7.2 billion for the National Science Foundation, down by $82 million from the FY 2013 enacted level. An analysis from the American Association for the Advancement of Science estimates that this amount reflects a 4.2 percent increase for NSF over the FY 2013 sequester level. The largest part of the funding — $5.8 billion — goes to NSF’s Research and Related Activities account. 

So while research funding has still not recovered from the impact of sequester-related cuts, and while the sequester is still not repealed, the omnibus spending bill gives research funding agencies some much-needed relief and, for a change, improved ability to plan since managers know how much they have to spend between now and the end of the fiscal year. 

The Federal Budget Blog will provide additional information about the bill’s research funding provisions in future updates.