Federal science agencies return to full operations

18 November 2013

Many federal scientists were furloughed during the government shutdown that lasted through the first half of October. While these scientists are back at work, the closing acts on Capitol Hill for the Fiscal Year 2014 budget cycle remain a work in progress.

Funding for the federal government was restored—at largely current levels—through the middle of January. It is hoped that a severely divided Congress will find a legislative solution to avoid another shutdown before then. A committee of key senators and representatives is meeting behind closed doors, and it is generally expected that there will be no “grand bargain” to put the government’s financing on a better footing. The focus appears to be on finding a way to replace the automatic budget cuts (“sequestration”) for FY 2014 and providing enough money to fund the federal government through the end of next September.

House and Senate committees are working on a separate track, on legislation setting policy and maximum funding levels (but not the actual funding) for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the laboratory programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The original version of this legislation—The America COMPETES Act—was enacted in 2007 with much bipartisan support in the House and Senate. When that law expired in 2010, the House went through some highly contentious deliberations before it was passed. Judging from what happened with a NASA bill in the House this year, passing new COMPETES legislation is not going to be easy. AIP’s Government Relations staff has been participating in meetings and briefings on this new legislation, and is reporting on public hearings and other developments in FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News