FY 2016 House Appropriations Bill: National Science Foundation

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Publication date: 
21 May 2015

The full House Appropriations Committee met yesterday and approved by voice vote the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill.  Under this bill, NSF funding would increase $50.0 million or 0.7 percent in the new fiscal year.

Accompanying this bill is a committee report that explains the $51.4 billion bill “prioritizes funding for Federal law enforcement, national security, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) while freezing, reducing, or eliminating funding for non-critical activities.”  The introduction also notes “For the National Science Foundation, the bill increases above the historically high level of research and related activities funding as provided in fiscal year 2015 by $50,000,000.”

The committee report has a 3 ½ page section regarding NSF that starts on page 62; a funding table is found on page 104-105.  Introductory language states: “The Committee supports section 106 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, H.R. 1806, as reported, that enhances transparency and accountability of NSF grants by requiring that public award abstracts articulate how the projects serve the national interest. The Committee understands that NSF has already taken steps to implement these transparency processes. NSF is directed to comply with section 106 and provide periodic updates to the Committee on its transparency activities.”  There is also language regarding the replication of scientific research, technology transfer, and the Innovation Corps.  Overall funding is as follows:

National Science Foundation
The FY 2015 appropriation was $7,344.2 million
The FY 2016 request is $7,723.6 million, an increase of $379.3 million or 5.2 percent
The House bill provides $7,394.2 million, an increase of $50.0 million or 0.7 percent

The report provides the committee’s recommendations regarding NSF’s major budget components:

Research and Related Activities

The FY 2015 appropriation was $5,933.7 million
The FY 2016 request is $6,186.3 million, an increase of $252.7 million or 4.3 percent
The House bill provides $5,983.7 million, an increase of $50.0 million or 0.8 percent

Of interest is language on how the foundation should allocate this money.  While avoiding specific funding levels by directorate, the report states: “The Committee directs NSF to ensure that Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering; and Biological Sciences comprise no less than 70 percent of the funding within Research and Related Activities. Further, the Committee directs that NSF allocate no less than the fiscal year 2015 levels for the Office of International Science and Engineering; Integrative Activities; and the U.S. Arctic Commission.” This language results in $1,319.9 million being available in FY 2016 for Geosciences (now receiving $1,304.4 million) and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (now receiving $272.2 million).  The combined current budget for these two directorates is $1,576.6 million; the FY 2016 budget in the House bill is $256.7 million or 16.3 percent less.

This section also has report language on neuroscience, advanced and domestic manufacturing, the divestment of NSF astronomical facilities, high-performance computing, International Ocean Drilling Program, dyslexia, and international collaborations.

Education and Human Resources

The FY 2015 appropriation was $866.0 million
The FY 2016 request is $962.6 million, an increase of $96.6 million or 11.2 percent
The House bill provides $866.0 million; flat funding

There is report language regarding Advanced Technological Education, broadening participation programs, informal STEM education, and EPSCoR.

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction
The FY 2015 appropriation was $200.8 million
The FY 2016 request is $200.3 million, a decrease of $0.5 million or 0.2 percent
The House bill provides $200.0 million; essentially flat funding

There is report language on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, for which the requested amount was provided. 

During yesterday’s markup session by the full committee, Rep. David Price (D-NC) offered an amendment to increase the foundation’s appropriation to the amount requested by the Obama Administration.  He criticized the bill’s essentially flat funding of the foundation, and objected to disproportionate reductions to the FY 2016 Geosciences budget that he said targeted climate change research and to the Social, Behavioral and Economic budget that target social science research.  House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) opposed the amendment since the additional funding was not offset by a corresponding reduction in other funding that would result in a point of order being raised against the bill.  The amendment was rejected by 21 yes to 30 no votes.  Culberson said that he shared Price’s “passion” for science and that if additional money became available to the subcommittee later this year that he would favor an increase in the foundation’s appropriation.