Congress weighing in on National Science Foundation’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget

Budget numbers unclear, but no threats to social/behavioral sciences so far. 

Many of you have heard about (and perhaps watched) last week’s filibuster in the Senate, which Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) launched to force consideration on gun policy amendments in the wake of the shootings in Orlando.  What you may not have noticed was that the legislative vehicle for the Republican and Democratic amendments allowed as a result of the successful filibuster is a Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Senate Appropriations bill. This “CJS” bill provides annual funding to the Departments of Commerce and Justice as well as a host of smaller, independent federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

So what potentially is in store for NSF’s budget?  Here are some quick funding highlights:

  • In the President’s proposed budget for FY17 released this past February, he called for an impressive 6.7% increase to NSF’s overall budget, which would bring it to $7.96 billion.  To make this happen, however, President Obama suggested a new mandatory funding stream – a one-time influx of $400 million – to raise NSF’s top line while also staying within statutory budget caps on discretionary funding.  APA and our fellow scientific associations, universities, and related industry partners had been arguing that NSF should get $8 billion.

  •  The President’s creative budget idea didn’t go over too well with Congressional funding subcommittees and full committees, and in April, the Senate essentially flat-funded NSF at $7.51 billion in the CJS bill that passed its full Appropriations Committee. In late May, the House Appropriations Committee approved its own CJS bill that provided $7.4 billion for NSF in FY17.  This represented a decrease from the current funding level, although it included a slight increase for the research account. 

This brings us to consideration on the Senate floor, where things now stand following the filibuster.  President Obama has threatened to veto the eventual CJS bill (the House must pass its version and then conference that with the version that emerges soon from the Senate) if it does not include his mandatory funding increases.

Fortunately, appropriators have thus far refrained from including bill language and amendments directly threatening NSF’s social and behavioral science funding. 

Stay tuned: we’ll update you as the appropriations process continues and ask you to weigh in with your congressional delegations should any problematic amendments arise.