Policy Update: June 21, 2011

Policy Update: June 21, 2011

Congress continues to work on FY12 funding bills and the Office of Government Relations is watching the process closely. The U.S. House has moved some of its appropriations bills through the legislative process, including a few that fund research funding agencies. Other bills still await action, including the Labor, Health & Human Services and Education bill, which funds the NIH and the Department of Education, among other programs.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is unlikely to pass an overall budget bill and it has not begun work on its appropriations bills. At the same time, Vice President Biden is working with congressional leaders in attempt to craft a deficit reduction plan for the next decade, which could include $4 billion in cuts to federal programs over 10 years. No one is clear about how these budget negotiations will turn out, or if FY12 fundingbills will pass both houses, but many assume that Washington won’t sort the budget situation out until close to the end of the year. With an August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling before the U.S. defaults on its debt, there is some pressure to at least come up with a short-term compromise.

Below are highlights of some of the House Appropriations bills that fund research agencies:

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill passed the House of Representatives on June 2nd by a vote of 231-188, with only 17 Democrats joining 216 Republicans voting in favor of the bill.
  • The bill included $36.5 million for the University Programs Science and Technology Account, which funds Northeastern's ALERT Center.
  • This was $500,000 above the President's budget request, but 23.5% below the FY10 level. This level of funding is likely to lead to the closure of one center.
Department of Defense Appropriations Bill was approved the full House Appropriations Committee on June 14th and would increase funding for Defense 6.1 basic research above both the FY11 level and the Administration's FY12 request. The bill will be considered by the full House this week.
  • The measure would provide $2.099 billion for 6.1 basic research, which is $151.4 million, or 7.8 percent, above the FY11 estimated level of $1.947 billion and $20 million, or 1.0 percent, above the Administration's request of about $2.079 billion.
  • Applied research (6.2 programs) would receive $4.672 billion, a $218.8 million, or 4.9-percent, increase over the FY11 level of $4.453 billion, and $15.5 million, or 0.3 percent, below the Administration's request of $4.687 billion.
Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee also marked up its bill.
  • Overall, the Department of Energy sustained an $850 million cut below FY11, including an $80 million cut to ARPA-E.
  • The mark includes $4.8 billion for the DOE Office of Science, nearly $55 million below FY11 and $616 million below the President's budget request.
  • Of particular note for Northeastern and universities generally, the Committee report language directs the Department of Energy to maintain its commitment to increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields by engaging in competitions to support this mission.

As of now draft Commerce-Justice-Science (NSF), Labor-HHS-ED (NIH, Student Aid) and Transportation-HUD (Americorps) bills have not yet been released by their respective House subcommittees.

One positive note, last week a bipartisan group of 41 Senators sent a letter to Senate appropriators urging them to “maintain a strong commitment to funding” for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY12.