Policy Update: March 5, 2014

On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled his proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget. Overall, the President's proposal is positive for Northeastern and the higher education sector generally, although it most assuredly will not be enacted into law as proposed. As usual members of Congress have already said the Presidents plan is dead on arrival, but this budget will serve as the starting point for this year’s budget process.

In particular, while the budget conforms to the overall discretionary spending caps agreed to in the two-year budget deal Congress reached last December, the President proposes to replace sequestration (beginning in 2016) through a combination of additional spending cuts, new taxes, and added revenue expected to result from immigration reform. The President would use such savings for an additional $56 billion "Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative" on top of the $1.014 Trillion budget. This would provide equal amounts of new spending for defense and domestic programs, including expanded pre-school grants, 650 new NIH grants and BRAIN Initiative funding, education, infrastructure, and veterans health.

Scientific Research

The budget largely preserves key investments in scientific research and development. Below is information about funding for federal research agencies on which Northeastern relies:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The Budget proposes $30.4 billion for the NIH, a 0.7 percent increase over FY14 level. The proposal would provide $16.2 billion to increase the number of research project grants by 329 over FY14 to 34,197. The Opportunity Initaitive proposal includes increases for the BRAIN Initiative, Alzheimer's, Big Data, a new "DARPA-like Innovation Program, and the Accelerating Medicines Partnership.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The Budget proposes $7.655 billion for the NSF, a proposed increase of $83.1 million, or 1.2 percent, above the 2014 enacted level. Of note, the Opportunity Initiative would include $552 million to support fundamental research across all disciplines, including 1,000 new research grants in STEM, neuroscience, cyber, advanced manufacturing and Research Traineeships. Many of these areas of focus line up well with Northeastern’s capabilities.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Budget proposes $38.176 billion, a decrease of 4.0 percent below the final FY14 level. The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) would receive a 12.2 percent or $148 million cut. Funding for research within S&T would increase by 3.7 percent for priorities such as disaster resilience and cybersecurity, which Northeastern has strong expertise in. The University Programs Account, which funds the our ALERT Center, would see a $8.7 million cut to $31 million. Congress has a record of ignoring such proposed cuts to this program. We will, of course, be fighting to preserve this funding so there is no impact on the ALERT Center.

Department of Defense (DOD)

The proposed budget for DOD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) accounts is $63.5 billion, including $11.5 billion for Science and Technology, an overall increase of 0.7 percent, but a 4.1% decrease for S&T from the FY14 enacted level. The budget would place greater emphasis on applied research and advanced technology development accounts. The request would also support additional institutes through the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) Initiative, which Northeastern competed for last year and hopes to again this year.

Department of Energy (DOE)

The Budget proposes $27.9 billion for DOE, a 2.6 percent increase above the 2014 enacted level. The DOE Office of Science would be funded at $5.1 billion, a $45 million increase. The budget expands funding slightly for Biological and Environmental Research and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The Opportunity Initiative would boost funding by $355 million for climate science.

Department of Education (ED)

The Budget proposes $68.6 billion in discretionary spending for the Dept. of Ed, which is 1.9 percent above the 2014 enacted level. The request includes several of the college affordability items President Obama laid out in his State of the Union Address, including the President's proposed new college rating system. It would also restructure the Campus Based Aid Programs (including SEOG And Work Study) to provide additional funding for institutions that successfully enroll and graduate a significant number of Pell-eligible students. The proposal would expand the Perkins Loan Program, which President Aoun has led the fight to preserve, but shift administration of the program to the federal government. The request would fund the Pell Grant program at a maximum award level of $5830, a 1.7 percent increase. It would also make permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps millions of middle class families pay for college.

Outlook

Because last year’s budget agreement set the overall budget framework for FY15, action will now move to the Appropriations committees in both branches to prepare the individual agency budgets. Throughout this process, we will be advocating for increase funding for the programs that Northeastern benefits from.