Policy Update: December 20, 2011

Congress was finally able to agree on a spending package for FY 2012, and the spending bill passed the House on Friday, December 16th by a vote of 296-121 and passed the Senate on Saturday, December 17th by a vote of 67-32. The final FY’12 Appropriations package includes funding for federal agencies under the nine remaining Appropriations bills, including: Defense, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior/Environment, Labor/Health and Human Services/Education, the Legislative Branch, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, and State/Foreign Operations. A few others were passed earlier this fall. They still have not resolved the Payroll tax issue, but they hope to next week.

LABOR/ HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES/ EDUCATION

The bill provides a total of $156.3 billion in regular discretionary funding for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education programs. While this is a total cut of $1.1 billion below last year’s level and $24.5 billion below the President’s request, some funding Northeastern is dependent on, including for the NIH, was increased. Education funding did receive a cut, but the reduction was less than proposed by earlier by the U.S. House. Below is a break down of the funding for key programs for Northeastern in the bill.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

HHS receives a total of $69.7 billion, $700 million below FY11 and $3.4 billion below President’s budget request.

  • NIH: provides $30.7 billion, $299 million above FY11 and $758 million below President’s budget request. The bill assumes the NIH will support the same number of scientifically meritorious research project grants as last year.
  • NCATS: The bill includes language under the NIH to establish the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). NCATS will receive $577 million from the elimination of the National Center for Research Resources.
EDUCATION

The Department of Education receives $71.3 billion in discretionary appropriations, $153 million below FY11 and $9.3 billion below the President’s request.

  • Pell Grants: maximum Pell grant award is continued at $5,550. The bill makes reforms to the Pell grant program to “ensure financial stability in the future years by saving more than $11 billion over the next ten years.” These reforms include some eligibility requirements – reducing the income level that qualifies a student to receive the maximum grant from $30,000 to $23,000; requiring a high school diploma or equivalent; limiting grants to a maximum of 12 semesters (previously 18 semesters)
  • For additional savings, the bill would temporarily eliminate the six-month grace period for new federal Stafford loans made on or after July 1, 2012 and before July 1, 2014. While students still would have the six-month grace period before monthly payments begin, they would be responsible for the interest accrued during that period.

HOMELAND SECURITY

The bill provides a total of $39.6 billion in regular discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security – a decrease of $2 billion below last year’s level and $4 billion below the President’s request.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
  • Within the Department of Homeland Security, the bill provides $668 million for the science and technology directorate, which represent a cut of $159 million from $827million in FY'11. The University Research Program, which Northeastern benefits from, also saw a cut from $39.89 million down to $36.53 million.

DEFENSE

The bill provides $518.1 billion for the base defense budget, an increase of $5 billion from FY 2011 but $20.8 billion less than the President’s request. The bill contains $72.4 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation of new technologies - $2.5 billion below last year’s level and $2.9 billion below the President’s request.

  • Basic and Applied Research: Within the DOD’s research budget, $19.2 billion has been allocated for basic and applied scientific research, development, test and evaluation, Department of Defense 6.1 Basic Research would increase from $1.947 billion to $2.117 billion.

ENERGY AND WATER

The bill provides $32 billion for Energy and Water programs, which includes the Energy Department. This represents a slight increase of $328 million over FY11, but a $4.5 billion shortfall from the President’s budget request. While the bulk of the increase was allocated for nuclear security programs, Energy Department science research programs would increase $43 million to $4.9 billion.

  • Research: While the bulk of the increase was allocated for nuclear security programs, Energy Department’s Office of Science research programs would increase $43 million to $4.9 billion. Funding is anticipated to strengthen the nation’s science and technology innovation by supporting basic energy research, development of high performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of clean energy sources.
  • ARPA-E: The bill provides the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy with $275 million, an increase of $95 over FY11 but $375 million below the budget request.

CONCLUSION

Over all, the funding for research and education programs that Northeastern benefits from were spared from deep cuts and in many cases actually saw increases. This creates an important base of funding for FY13, but next year we will continue to advocate strongly for these programs, as there continues to be pressure to reduce the federal budget.