August 3, 2017 Budget Update

After completing fiscal year 2017 federal budget process several months behind schedule, Congress has now turned its attention to the fiscal year 2018 appropriations process. That means Congress must reconcile President Trump’s budget proposal with its own views on government spending, including federal research funding.   

Where Do Things Stand Now?

On the House side, each of the twelve House appropriations bills, which fund the federal agencies, have already been approved by the House Appropriations Committee. On the Senate side, the Senate Appropriations Committee has begun working on their versions as well.

Although the debate over fiscal year 2018 spending is far from over, we have already seen some relatively positive signs. In particular:

  1. The House Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education appropriations bill, which was approved by the Appropriations Committee in July, includes a $1.1 billion increase in funding at the NIH, slight increases in funding for TRIO and GEAR UP, and level funding for SEOG and Federal Work Study programs.
  2. The “Labor-H” bill also includes specific language prohibiting changes to the formula by which the NIH reimburses institutions for so-called “facilities and administration” costs.
  3. The House Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill, which was also approved by the House Appropriations Committee in July, includes a modest $133 million cut to the NSF budget – a far cry from what was proposed by the Trump budget. We still hope to see an increase on the Senate side.
  4. The House Appropriations Committee approved its Department of Defense appropriations bill in July as well. This DOD spending bill funds the DOD at $658.1 billion, an increase of $68.1 billion of FY17 levels, and includes $84.7 billion in defense research and development funding (an increase of $10.3 billion over FY17 levels).

The following chart shows the funding levels for relevant agencies from FY17, the Trump budget proposal, and the House and Senate appropriations committees:

FY17 Omnibus

Trump Budget

FY18 House Approps

FY18 Senate Approps


$7.5 billion

$6.7 billion

$7.3 billion

$7.3 billion


$34 billion

$26.9 billion

$35.2 billion



$593 billion

$639 billion

$658.1 billion



$68 billion

$59 billion

$66 billion



$42.4 billion

$44.1 billion

$44.3 billion


What Happens Next? 

With the House Appropriations bills having been approved by the Committee, and the Senate currently working through their versions, the next step is for the bills to come to the floor for a vote by the full House and then the Senate. We don’t expect that to happen until the fall.

Once the full House and Senate approve their spending bills, then the difficult task of reconciling their different versions begins in earnest. While the ultimate goal is to pass a full spending package through both houses of Congress before the end of the current fiscal year (September 30, 2017), the more likely scenario is that Congress passes a short term spending bill called a Continuing Resolution to extend funding for the federal government beyond the end of the current fiscal year in order to buy itself more time to negotiate the FY18 spending bills.

What we have seen so far from the House appropriations bills seems to indicate that Congress intends to stand up to President Trump’s drastic cuts to federal agencies that back research and federal programs supporting students.  That is good news.

We will continue to pay close attention to the appropriations process, and to advocate for federal research funding, student aid, and other programs that impact the Northeastern community.