December 12, 2014 Appropriations Update

The United States Senate passed the "CROmnibus,” a bill making appropriations for federal agencies for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2015.  The measure provides $1.1 trillion in funding for 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills. The Department of Homeland Security will receive a 3-month Continuing Resolution (until Feb. 27, 2015), due to a disagreement over the President's recent immigration Executive Order.  (While we are disappointed that DHS will  operate under a short term CR, we will continue work to make sure that DHS S&T research activities receive priority, particularly the university centers program that funds ALERT and a potential future center on resilience in any final DHS appropriations bill.) 

The Senate vote follows House passage of bill Thursday evening, which overcame member objections to certain controversial policy “riders," particularly provisions related to Wall Street derivatives regulation and increases in campaign finance contribution limits.  President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.  Overall the news is positive for the funding agencies that Northeastern relies on. 

Advantaging Northeastern Researchers

Working with our congressional delegations, we wanted to share the good news that the Omnibus included new funding in the areas of strategic materials, cybersecurity, and coastal resilience, as well as  language directing the relevant agencies to prioritize these Northeastern research strengths.  

Scientific Research

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

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): The bill provides $30.08 billion for the NIH, $150 million or .05% increase over last year, which leaves the agency still below the FY12 sequester level.  Most Institutes would see than a 1 percent increase.  Among items of interest in the report to accompany the bill, Congress express concern that the average age at which an investigator first obtains R01 funding is 42 and asks the NIH for a plan to address the issue. 
  • National Science Foundation (NSF):  Provides a 2.4% overall increase and modest increases in all accounts above the FY14 level.  A $21 million increase is provided for cognitive science and neuroscience.  
  • Defense:  The DoD basic research program would receive a 5.2 percent increase above the FY14 level, after it had been targeted for a 7 percent cut in President Obama's proposed budget.  The Omnibus provides 5.2 percent boost to S&T basic research, and a slight .08% cut to applied research.  The Defense Health program would see a $178 million or 11.5 percent boost.
  • NOAA:  Provides a 2.4 percent increase for NOAA, including $16.5 million in new funding for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.  Of note for our Marine Science programs, the bill provides $5 million in new money for coastal resiliency grants.
  • Energy & Water:  Provides level funding for the DOE Office of Science at $5.1 billion.  Within the office, wind energy (21%), geothermal (20%), and advance manufacturing (10.8%) see large increases.  Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program receives a 1.2 increase, avoiding the 6 percent cut proposed by the House.
  • Education: The Omnibus level funds most of the federal student aid programs, but increase the maximum Pell Grant by $100 to $5,830 for 2015-2016.  The Omnibus diverts $218 million from the Pell program to pay student loan servicer contracts.  Work Study would see a $15 million increase, and SEOG is flat funded.  The bill restores the "ability to benefit" Pell eligibility rules for career training programs.  Limited news funds are provided for TRIO program and the Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, both of which will be re-competed in the months ahead.