President's Proposed FY17 Federal Budget Update

On February 9, 2016, President Obama unveiled his proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget.  Overall, the President’s proposal is positive for Northeastern and the higher education sector generally.  Of course, the President’s plan is largely “dead on arrival” in Congress, especially in a presidential election year, but it will serve as an important starting point for negotiations with Congress.  It also reflects months of planning by the Administration and offers insights into federal research agencies’ plans and priorities.

Overall, the President’s proposed $4.23 trillion budget adheres to the discretionary spending caps agreed to in last October’s two-year budget deal.  It would raise discretionary spending by $30 billion, or 5%, over FY16 (which was $50 billion higher than FY15).  At the same time, however, it would propose additional “mandatory” spending in several strategic areas—an approach generally disfavored by Congressional appropriators.  The President also proposes to end budget “sequestration” and across-the-board cuts that would be imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act beginning in FY18.

Below are selected highlights of the budget.  The President’s full proposal is also available HERE.

Scientific Research

The budget would provide $152 billion in funding for key investments in scientific research and development, a $6.2 billion or 4 percent increase.  Below is information about funding for federal research agencies on which Northeastern relies:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The Budget proposes $33.1 billion for the NIH, a $1.3 billion or 3.1 percent increase over FY16— a level that would fund some 10,000 new and competing NIH grants.  The proposal includes a $1.8 billion increase in new mandatory spending for the Vice President’s $680 million Cancer Moonshot initiative and $230 million for precision medicine.   It would also provide $413 million for research to Combat Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, which aligns with work in the College of Science.  Several research priorities that were proposed last year are highlighted again this year, including funding for the BRAIN Initiative, Alzheimer’s, and Big Data to Knowledge.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The Budget proposes $7.96  billion for the NSF, a proposed increase of $500.5 million, or 6.7 percent, above the 2016 enacted level.  Of note, the request supports fundamental research across all disciplines, including initiatives on increasing resilience to disasters, clean energy, and Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems.   The foci on resilience and water, in particular, correspond well to Northeastern’s capabilities. 

 Department of Defense (DOD)

The proposed budget for DOD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) accounts is $71.4 billion (an increase of $1.6 billion), including $12.5 billion for Science and Technology, which would be a 5.7 percent reduction from the FY16 enacted level.  Basic research would sustain a 9 percent cut and applied research a 3.8 percent cut.  DARPA would receive an $82.4 million increase, which augurs well for NU faculty who have recently made new connections with the agency.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The budget proposes $40.6 billion, a 0.9 percent decrease over FY16.  The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) would receive a 36.2 percent or $779 million cut.  The University Programs Account, which funds our ALERT Center and Center on Critical Infrastructure Resiliency, on which Northeastern is a partner, would see a $8.6 million cut to $33 million. Congress has a record of ignoring such proposed cuts to this program and we will, of course, be fighting to preserve this funding so there is no impact to these centers.   

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The budget proposes $5.8 billion for NOAA, a 1.3 percent increase over FY16.  The proposal includes $15 million for (Regional Coastal Resilience Grants that would make grants to help reduce the risks that climate change poses to coastal ecosystems and communities.  This new program closely follows language we successfully included in the FY15 appropriations bill directing NOAA to prioritize coastal sustainability, extreme weather response, and resilience.   The request would also provide $9 million in competitive funds to help fishing communities become more resilient through ecosystem restoration, research, and adaptation.  

Department of Energy (DOE)

The budget proposes $30.2 billion for DOE, a 2.2 percent increase above the 2016 enacted level.  The DOE Office of Science would be funded at $5.7 billion, a 4.2% increase. The budget also expands funding for most major DOE programs, including Biological and Environmental Research and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Department of Education (ED)

The budget proposes $69.4 billion in discretionary spending for the Dept. of Ed, which is 1.6 percent above the 2016 enacted level.  The request provides $2 billion in new funds for the Pell Grant Program to reinstate “year-round Pell” and keep up with inflation by increasing the maximum Pell Award to $5,935 for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Other proposals include:  a new unsubsidized Perkins Loan program targeted to institutions who enroll Pell-eligible students. 

National Endowment for Humanities (NEH)

 The budget proposes to fund NEH at $149.8 million, a $1.8 million increase over FY16, including $101 million for the Endowment’s grant programs.


The House and Senate Appropriations committees will now begin to set the funding levels for their subcommittees and prepare individual agency budgets. Congressional leaders are hopeful that they will be able to pass the funding bills this year because the over all funding levels are already set. But this process will likely take several months once again because of differences on policy issues. Throughout this process, we will be advocating for increase funding for the programs that Northeastern benefits from.