December 18, 2015 Appropriations Update

Congress has passed the FY16 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that sets funding levels for all federal programs—including research accounts—through September 30, 2016. Congress has also passed a major tax bill that will extend or make permanent several tax provisions of interest to the higher education community. President Obama has stated he will sign the bill into law.  


The Omnibus bill provides significant funding increases for several research agency programs, which Northeastern obtains funding from. The deal is in line with the two-year federal budget deal agreed to in October to lift sequestration budget caps by $50 billion in 2016, and an additional $30 billion in 2017. The Omnibus includes about $548 billion for defense discretionary spending and $518.5 billion for non-defense spending. In addition, several accounts in defense, cyber security, and urban coastal sustainability that are NU research strengths received increases.  

Notable Research Accounts

NIH. NIH will receive a $2 billion, or 6.7%, increase over FY15, with increase for Alzheimer’s, the BRAIN Initiative, antibiotic-resistance research and the Precision Medicine Initiative.

NSF. NSF will get a $119 million, or 1.6%, increase of FY15. Notably, the Omnibus rejects House efforts to slash Science, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences and Geosciences funding, level-funding the SBE.

DoD. DoD Science and Technology programs see about a $1 billion, or 7.5% increase.  While 6.1 basic research accounts are up about $32 million, or 1.4 percent, Air Force basic research (-3.8%), DARPA (-0.9%), and Army university and industry research centers (-4.1%) all received slight decreases.

NASA. NASA will receive a $1.3 billion increase overall, including a $90 million, or 15 percent, increase for the Space Technology Program.  

Energy. The DOE Office of Science will be funded at $5.35 billion, an increase of 5.5 percent.  Most other Energy programs, including Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Basic Energy Sciences, Biological and Environmental Research, and ARPA-E all received increases.

DHS. DHS will receive a $1.6 billion increase over FY15. This includes a $66 million increase for cybersecurity, an $8 million boost for DHS Science and Technology, and an $8.7 million increase for the University Programs Account, which funds both the Northeastern’s ALERT Center and the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Center, on which NU is a partner.

NEH. NEH will get its first funding increase ($2 million) in six years to $147.9 million in FY16.    

Higher Education Programs

The Omnibus provides $22.5 billion in discretionary funding for Pell Grants. When combined with mandatory funding, the Pell Grant maximum award rises $140 to $5,915 for the 2016-2017 school year. The campus based aid programs, including Federal Work Study and SEOG, were level funded from FY15. A separate bill will extend the Perkins Loan program for two more years, but unfortunately phases the program out.

Northeastern Research Priorities

Several provisions we worked with our congressional delegation insert into to the bill to advantage Northeastern faculty and research programs are likely to yield additional direct federal funding for the university. These include:

  • An additional $3-$5 million in Army funding for strategic materials research;
  • Up to $6 million in new funding for cyber security research within the Marine Corps;
  • $10 million in competitive funding from NOAA for costal resiliency research;
  • The ability to compete for a new NOAA Center on Coastal Sustainability and Resilience and funding from a new NOAA program on urban coastal sustainability.

Tax Extenders

Congress has also developed a compromise package of tax provisions. The tax extension deal makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the IRA Charitable Rollover, and the Research & Development (R&D) tax credit, as well as extends through 2016 the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses. The  measure also improves Section 529 college savings accounts, in part by expanding the definition of qualified expenses to include computer equipment and technology.

As always, please let us know if you have specific questions and we will provide more information to you as agencies release program funding solicitations in the New Year.