President's Proposed FY16 Federal Budget Update

On February 2, 2015, President Obama unveiled his proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Of course, the President’s plan is “dead on arrival” in Congress, as Republicans now control both branches.  Nevertheless, some analysts see the possibility of a budget deal as an improved prospect during this Congress and the President’s blueprint will serve as a starting point for negotiations.  It also reflects months of planning by the Administration and offers insights into federal research agencies’ plans and priorities.

In particular, the President proposes to end budget “sequestration" imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.  The administration proposes a $74 billion, or 7%, increase in discretionary spending, which includes $38 billion in new funding for Department of Defense (DoD) programs, and a $37 billion increase in domestic discretionary accounts.  The President would pay for these increases by a mix of other budget cuts, closing corporate tax loopholes, increasing capital gains taxes, and generating new revenue from immigration reform.

Below are highlights of the budget, and attached is a more detailed summary from our consultants Lewis-Burke Associates that allows you to drill down into the details of the budget.  The President’s full proposal is also available HERE.

Scientific Research

The budget would provide $146 billion in funding for key investments in scientific research and development, a $7.6 billion or 6 percent increase.  Below is information about funding for federal research agencies on which Northeastern relies:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The Budget proposes $31.3 billion for the NIH, a $1 billion or 3.3 percent increase over the FY15 level. The proposal includes $200 million for a new precision medicine initiative and $461 million for a new program to fund research to Combat Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria.  Several research priorities that were proposed last year are highlighted again this year, including funding for pediatric research, the BRAIN Initiative, Alzheimer’s, and Big Data to Knowledge.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The Budget proposes $7.724  billion for the NSF, a proposed increase of $379.3 million, or 5.2 percent, above the 2015 enacted level.  Of note, request supports fundamental research across all disciplines, including initiatives on the Brain, Risk and Resilience, and Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems.   

Department of Defense (DOD)

The proposed budget for DOD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) accounts is $69.78 billion, including $12.27 billion for Science and Technology, an overall increase of 9.6 percent from the FY15 enacted level.  The budget would place greater emphasis on applied research, advanced technology development, and prototyping over basic research.  The request would also support 6 institutes through the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) Initiative.  DARPA would receive a $102 million increase, but the Defense Health Program would be cut by $750 million, or 43.4 percent.  

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Budget proposes $41.2 billion, a 3.3 percent increase over FY14 (in response to the President’s immigration Executive Order, Congress is still debating and finalizing the FY15 appropriation).  The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) would receive a 36.2 percent or $779 million cut.  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. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The budget proposes $5.9 billion for NOAA, a 10 percent increase over FY15.  The proposal includes $50 million for a new coastal resilience program (Regional Coastal Resilience Grants) that would make grants to help reduce the risks that climate change poses to coastal ecosystems and communities.  

Department of Energy (DOE)

The Budget proposes $29.9 billion for DOE, a 9.2 percent increase above the 2015 enacted level.  The DOE Office of Science would be funded at $5.3 billion, a $272 million increase. The budget also expands funding for all major DOE programs, including Biological and Environmental Research and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Department of Education (ED)

The Budget proposes $70.7 billion in discretionary spending for the Dept. of Ed, which is 5.4 percent above the 2015 enacted level.  The request provides funds for the Pell Grant Program to keep up with inflation and increase the maximum Pell Award to $5,915 for the 2016-2017 academic year.  Level funding would be provided for the Federal Work Study and SEOG programs.  Several college affordability items are featured, including the President’s free, two-year community college initiative (America’s College Promise).  It would provide a $140 million increases for the First In the World Program to promote innovation and student outcomes (Northeastern received a $4 million FITW grant for the Lowell Institute STEM school earlier this year).  The budget also proposes several policy changes that are likely to be addressed by the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  These include:  FAFSA Simplification and expansion of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) loan repayment to all borrowers.  The budget would also make permanent and increase the refundable portion of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), while eliminating the Hope Scholarship, Lifetime Learning Credit and Student Loan Interest Deduction, which are somewhat overlapping and duplicative education tax subsidies.  Finally, ED’s Office of Civil Rights would receive a $31 million increase to hire 200 new FTEs to handle increased Title IX and campus sexual assault investigations.


The House and Senate Budget Committees will now be charged with trying to pass a Budget Resolution by March to set the overall budget framework for FY16.  Subsequently, the Appropriations committees in both branches will prepare the individual agency budgets.