At a meeting of the American Physical Society, two physicist-congressmen and a former top federal science official discussed challenges the science community may face in the coming years and sketched out ways to respond.
The Senate is expected to confirm Rick Perry as secretary of energy following a relatively uncontentious hearing on Jan. 19, at which the former Texas governor vowed to be a champion for all Department of Energy activities. However, Perry’s support has been partially overshadowed by a report that the Trump administration plans to target DOE for deep budget cuts and program eliminations.
Among presidents, Barack Obama took an unusually strong interest in science and technology, and his administration pursued a wide array of S&T-related initiatives. However, early hopes for major expansions in R&D funding remained largely unfulfilled.
The president’s budget and House and Senate appropriations proposals for fiscal year 2017 included multiple funding and programmatic changes for the federal science agencies, but these changes are in limbo after lawmakers extended the federal government’s spending on a continuing resolution through April 28.
Today, the president signed a stopgap spending bill that extends current fiscal year funding for the federal government through Dec. 9. With Congress recessing at the end of this week to campaign for the general election, major science-related legislation will not see further movement earlier than mid-November.
A group of industry, higher education, and scientific organizations has reissued a statement calling for Congress to increase federal support of basic research, streamline research regulations, and reaffirm merit-based review, among other actions.
With all 12 appropriations bills now drafted, the outcome of funding for the federal science agencies in fiscal year 2017 is coming into focus, with appropriations on track in many cases to diverge from the president’s discretionary funding requests.
If history is any guide, Congress will almost certainly pass one or more stopgap spending measures before reaching a final agreement on funding for fiscal year 2017. The question now becomes whether the current Congress and outgoing president will finalize an agreement in the lame-duck session or instead hand off responsibility for the final negotiations to the 115th Congress and the incoming administration.
The House and Senate are kicking off the congressional budget process this year with unprecedented speed, as the appropriations committees begin historically early consideration of key science spending bills.