Even though the federal fiscal year ended in September, the federal budget process for 2010 is far from over. While the funding outlook for a few agencies looks positive, bills that fund the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, which support over 85 percent of federally funded life science research, have yet to be finalized.
Of the 12 appropriations bills that determine the federal budget for the coming year, only five have been signed into law. In the meantime, Congress has kept the government afloat through a continuing resolution, which funds agencies at 2009 levels while the details of the 2010 budget are negotiated.
Agriculture-related research has received a large increase. The agriculture appropriations bill for 2010, signed by the president on Oct. 16, funds the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at $1.34 billion, a roughly 10 percent increase over 2009. This increases the budget of the Agriculture, Food and Research Initiative, the associated extramural research program, by 25 percent to $262.4 million.
In contrast, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science will see a more modest increase. The Energy and Water Appropriations bill, signed by the president Oct. 28, funds this agency at $4.9 billion, 3 percent above 2009.
The NSF budget, while not yet signed into law, is likely to get a boost. Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the Commerce/Justice/Science appropriations bill that is responsible for the NSF budget. The House and Senate bills both fund the NSF at around $6.9 billion, a nearly 7 percent increase from 2009. However, a final version of this bill has yet to be agreed upon.
Unfortunately, the NIH budget remains in Congressional limbo. In July, the House passed a version of the Labor/HHS/Education bill that would fund the NIH at nearly $31 billion, more that 3 percent above 2009. The Senate appropriations committee has countered with a proposed 1.5 percent increase but there has been no legislative action on the NIH budget for more than three months. In meetings on Capitol Hill in September, ASBMB members asked members of Congress to support the House funding level for the NIH.
Much of the federal government will no longer be funded when the current continuing resolution expires Dec. 18. Because time is short, Congress may combine many of the remaining bills into a larger omnibus spending bill. Given that no version Labor/HHS/Education bill has been considered on the Senate floor, it is likely the NIH budget will end up in an omnibus package.
It may be well into December before we have a final budget for 2010.