May 3, 2017 Federal Budget Update

Over the weekend Congressional leaders reached a deal on a $1 trillion spending bill that would fund the federal government through September 30, 2017. The agreement, which must now pass the House and Senate and be signed by President Trump, would avert a government shutdown later this week. The bill is expected to be voted on in the House on Wednesday and in the Senate later this week. Overall the spending plan is very positive for Northeastern both in terms of research and education spending.

The deal includes compromises by Congressional Republicans, Democrats, as well as President Trump. Notably, the spending package does not include funding for the President’s border wall, nor does it incorporate many of the drastic cuts proposed in the President’s FY18 “skinny budget” released earlier this year (though those cuts still might materialize in an FY18 spending bill later this year). The bill includes significant increases to Department of Defense funding as well as cuts to agencies that have been previously targeted by the President and Congressional Republicans, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Education. The bill also funds Obamacare subsidies for low-income Americans indefinitely.

Below are several notable funding levels contained in the bill and the implications for Northeastern:

  • Department of Health and Human Services: HHS receives $73.5 billion in funding, an increase of $2.8 billion over FY16, including $34 billion in funding for NIH (a $2 billion increase over FY16 levels). The increases at NIH are focused on targeted investments in research related to Alzheimer’s disease, brain science, antibiotic resistance and other areas. Northeastern received $31.2 million in NIH funding in FY16, so with this modest increase to the NIH budget the university should be well positioned to compete for funding through the end of this fiscal year.
  • Department of Defense: DOD receives $593 billion in funding, an increase of $19.9 billion, including increased spending on border security and funding for the Global War on Terror. Importantly, the spending bill includes specific funding increases that were submitted to four programs which Northeastern faculty are actively working on. These programs include interdisciplinary cyber security research with the U.S. Navy, work on drone swarms with the U.S. Air Force, materials research with the U.S. Army, and an Army program related to tactical shelters.
  • Department of Homeland Security: DHS receives $42.4 billion in funding, an increase of $1.45 billion over FY16. DHS funding focuses on increased investments in border security, disaster relief and emergency response activities, and cyber security improvements. Northeastern received $5 million in DHS funding in FY16 and is well positioned to compete for funding through the end of the fiscal year.
  • National Science Foundation: NSF receives $7.5 billion in funding, an increase of $9 million over FY16. The FY17 funding targets investments in research focused on innovation and economic competitiveness, advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cyber security, neuroscience, and STEM. Northeastern received $28.3 million in NSF funding in FY16 and should be well positioned to pursue additional funding through the remainder of the current fiscal year.
  • Department of Education: DoEd receives $68 billion in funding, a decrease of $1.2 billion from FY16. Despite this decrease, the spending does include restoration of year round Pell Grants and an increase in the maximum Pell award to $5,935. In addition SEOG and FWS were level-funded, but TRIO got a $50 million increase and Gear-Up received a $17 million increase. 
  • Department of Energy: DOE receives $11.28 billion in funding, an increase of $257 million over FT16 levels, including $5.4 billion for the DOE Office of Science (a $42 million increase over the FY16 level). The Office of Science increase will support basic energy research, high performance computing research, and efforts related to next generation energy sources. Northeastern received $1.3 million in DOE funding in FY16 and is well positioned to compete for additional funding going forward.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: NASA receives $19.7 billion in funding, an increase of $368 million, including $5.8 billion for NASA science programs.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: While there has been talk of drastically reducing NOAA’s budget, the agency receives $5.7 billion, a decrease of $90 million from FY16. FY17 funding focuses on targeted priority areas including the National Weather Service, and the Joint Polar Satellite System and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Of particular note: NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research receives $477.7 million, a slight increase above FY 16 level; the Sea Grant program, which Northeastern receives funding from, would receive $63 million, a $1 million below FY 16 level; the Climate Program Office would receive flat funding at the FY16 level of $60 million; and the National Ocean Service would receive $517.4 million, an increase of $17.3 million above FY16.
  • National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities: NEA and NEH receive $150 million each, a $2 million increase from FY16.

While this budget package is very positive for Northeastern, we will have our work cut out for us with the FY 18 budget process, which we are already working on. We will continue to advocate for these funding priorities on behalf of the university.