Federal budget cycle concludes; Budget cycle begins

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3 February 2014

More than three months after the federal government’s fiscal year began, President Obama signed a 1,000+ page bill into law that concluded the FY 2014 appropriations cycle.

The dollar-and-cents outcome for federal research and development was mixed. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science saw a significant increase in funding. This is an important budget for physicists, supporting top-notch research and cutting-edge facilities and instrumentation. The National Institute of Standards and Technology received a sizeable increase over the previous year’s budget, as did the basic research program of the Department of Defense. Other science and technology agency budgets generally saw increases, although not always as robust, including those for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health. AIP’s Government Relations website reviews 10 different agency budget outcomes of interest to the physics community. 

In addition to these budget numbers, the legislation is accompanied by directions from the appropriations committees to federal agencies. Included in these directions (what Congress calls an Explanatory Statement) was language about open access to research findings. I have closely followed this issue and will be working with my colleagues to understand the full ramifications of what Congress intends. Interest in this issue remains high. I participated in a lunch briefing on Capitol Hill on open access in mid-January which was well attended, despite bitterly cold weather. 

There was improvement in the process leading up to the passage of the appropriations bill. A January shutdown of the federal government was avoided. Members of Congress from both parties and chambers were able to agree on the total amount of money the federal government should spend for discretionary programs for this fiscal year (2014) and FY 2015. Appropriators reportedly worked well together as they crafted the final appropriations bill, and it was passed in both the House and Senate by significant margins. 

The President continues to demonstrate his strong support for basic research and his understanding of its relationship to our future economy. In his State of the Union address last week, the President told Congress and the nation: “We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery—whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel.” Many members of Congress, from both parties, agree on the importance of basic research to America’s future. 

The appropriations cycle begins again on March 4 when President Obama sends his FY 2015 budget to Congress. While there will undoubtedly be controversy about program spending levels and policy direction, the process should be somewhat smoother. Together with our Member Societies, the AIP Government Relations team will continue to follow all of these developments closely.