November 19, 2013 | This coming January 15 is the expiration date for the FY 2014 continuing resolution, which was signed into law at the end of the October 2013 government shutdown.
To keep the federal government open, Congress will need to agree to appropriate additional discretionary funds by January 15. If Congress passes a year-long continuing resolution at the current rate of operations (a very possible scenario), the federal defense agencies face an automatic across-the-board spending cut totaling $19 billion.
Sequestration was put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011, effectively reducing spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years through automatic across-the-board spending cuts beginning in FY 2013 and automatic reductions in total spending of $109 billion per year for fiscal years 2014 through 2021. These annual automatic cuts were coupled with hard budget ceilings for overall federal discretionary spending over the same 10 years, reducing the deficit by an additional $917 billion in discretionary spending.
Discretionary spending accounts for about one-third of the federal budget, including almost all federal R&D programs, including NSF, NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science.
Late last month, appointed budget conferees in Congress met to negotiate a deal to replace the sequester for the remainder of FY 2014 and possibly beyond. Similar budget conferences have failed to reach agreement in recent years.
In a statement to the Senate on November 5, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) said, “Sequestration was intended to be so bad that it would drive both sides to the table willing to make some compromises to replace it with smarter savings. And I am very glad that more and more of my colleagues—from both sides of the aisle—are stepping up and trying to find a solution. So the question is not whether we should replace the across-the-board-cuts, but how.”
The House Budget leader, Paul Ryan (R-WI) echoed the sentiment, saying that there were “smarter ways” to cut spending than the automatic cuts. The budget conferees have until December 13 to resolve their differences.
In the meantime, Members of Congress are hearing from their constituents. University presidents held a press conference and met with key congressional leaders last week to reveal the results of a recent survey sponsored by the Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and the Science Coalition. The new survey, described in a news release and summarized in a PDF from scienceworksforus.com, quantifies the effects of across-the-board spending cuts, which took effect in March 2013, on the nation’s research universities.