Gov Relations

House Appropriations Subcommittees Approve FY18 Appropriations Bills Funding Scientific Research

July 10, 2017 | The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has approved its fiscal year 2018 funding bill. The legislation appropriates funds for the Department of Commerce (including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Department of Justice, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and other related agencies.

The bill totals $54 billion (compared to $56.6 billion in the FY17 omnibus bill that Congress passed on May 3, and $49.2 billion in the administration's FY18 budget request). The bill increases for national security measures; boosts trade enforcement; continues investments in space exploration programs; and advances science and technologies essential for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. In order to make these investments, the subcommittee reduced or eliminated a number of "lower-priority programs."

Chairman John Culberson (R-Texas) noted in his remarks, "the bill does not adopt the proposed cut to National Science Foundation funding for Research and Related Activities. Funding basic science research is critical to our nation." Ranking Member Jose Serrano (D-New York) thanked the chairman for rejecting the administration's cut to NSF, but expressed concern about other cuts, including a 19% reduction in NOAA's climate research. Culberson responded that there will be a major budget deal, referring to the need for Congress later this year to raise the debt ceiling and, at the same time, to possibly increase federal spending caps for both defense and nondefense agencies.

The full House Appropriations Committee will take up the legislation on July 13. It is unlikely that the spending bills will be considered by the full House of Representatives before Congress leaves for their August recess at the end of July.

The UCAR Washington Office continues to advocate for an increase for research overall.

Funding for Selected Agencies

National Science Foundation

For NSF, the bill provides $7.3 billion (compared to $7.5 billion in FY17 and $6.7 billion in the administration's FY18 budget request). The bill aims to foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, with an emphasis on funding for research into advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education. The reduction apparently would eliminate the three Regional Class Research Vessels funded through NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account.

The bill maintains funding for Research and Related Activities at the current FY17 level of $6 billion (compared to $5.4 billion in the administration's FY18 request).

Details for the Geosciences Directorate (GEO), which provides support for NCAR, will be provided when the House Appropriations Committee releases its report at the full committee markup later this month. However, we have some good news to share about this year's funding of GEO. We have learned that the FY17 budget is $875 million, down just $2 million from FY16, which means that funding was held essentially flat.  


The bill provides $19.9 billion for NASA (compared to $19.7 billion in FY17, and the same level the administration's FY18 request). It includes $4.6 billion for Exploration (compared to $4.3 billion in FY17). This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System and related ground systems. The bill provides $5.9 billion for NASA Science programs (compared to $5.8 billion in FY17). This targets funding to planetary science and astrophysics, while reducing funding for "lower-priority" research.


For NOAA, the bill provides $4.97 billion (compared with $5.7 billion in FY17 but nearly $200 million more than the administration's FY18 request). Funding is targeted for the National Weather Service, fisheries management, weather research, and ocaean exploration and is reduced for "lower priority" activities. The bill also includes full funding to continue the Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program to help improve weather forecasting.

Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies

On June 28, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY18 appropriations bill. This legislation includes funding for key Department of Energy (DOE) research programs, national defense nuclear weapons activities, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Funding for DOE energy programs is $9.6 billion (a $1.7 billion cut from the FY17 appropriation and a $2.3 billion increase above the administration's FY18 budget request). The bill prioritizes early-stage research and development funding for the applied energy programs. Funding is targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance the nation's goal of an "all-of-the above" solution to energy independence.

Research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies is funded at $635 million (a cut of $33 million from FY17 and an increase of $355 million above the administration's FY18 request). In addition, research, development, and demonstration activities to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy are funded at $969 million (a cut of $48 million from FY17 and an increase of $266 million above the administration's FY18 request).

Renewable energy programs are cut by $986 million from the FY17 appropriated amount and increased $468 million compared to the administration's FY18 request. While the bill adopts the administration's FY18 proposal to eliminate the APRA-E research program, it includes $5.4 billion for research (the same as the FY17 enacted level). This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources.

Additional details on DOE funding will be available once the bill moves to full committee on July 12.

OMB Provides Guidance to Agencies for FY19 Budget Development

On July 7, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a memorandum sent to all agencies providing guidance on the development of the FY19 proposed budget, which is due to OMB by Sept. 11, 2017. The memo directs agencies to draft FY19 budgets that "reflect a level no higher than the net total provided…in the FY19 column of the FY18 budget."

In the administration’s FY18 budget, a table of discretionary spending caps was included (table S-7, p.40). For FY19, OMB is proposing to reduce nondefense discretionary spending by an additional $16 billion, on top of the proposed $54 billion cut proposed for FY18. 

The OMB memo does invite the agencies "…to identify additional investments in effective programs that further support their mission and fill a clear federal role." These additional investments should be no more than a 5 percent increase over the "submission level" for FY19. In this guidance document, OMB also advises the agencies to submit Agency Reform Plans drawn from the reorganization guidance issued by Executive Order 13781 when they submit their FY19 budget plans. OMB emphasizes "the FY 2019 budget process will give special consideration to bold reform or reorganization proposals that have the potential to dramatically improve effectiveness and efficiency of government operations…"


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