President Obama released his budget request for FY 2012 on Monday. While reducing discretionary spending to $1.344 trillion, the budget nevertheless totals $3.7 trillion in overall spending and projects a record deficit of nearly $1.6 trillion, thanks to rises in non-discretionary programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Sticking with his themes of education and innovation, Obama targeted the Department of Education and multiple science agencies for large budget increases, while making cuts to the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The National Institutes of Health were tabbed for an increase of $745 million, bringing the total agency budget to almost $32 billion. Unfortunately, the 2.4% jump from the enacted FY10 level fails to mirror the projected 2.8% increase in Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI) for 2011. Furthermore, though the NIH budget request is seemingly straight-forward at a first glance, a little digging muddies the picture, in particular regarding the recent controversy surrounding the proposed remodeling of the agency. The proposed National Center for the Advancement of Translational Science, though described in the NIH budget request summary as being an agency priority, did not receive a line item budget request. However, several of the programs to be incorporated into NCATS, including the Tropical and Neglected Disease (TRND) program and the newly-authorized Cures Acceleration Network, did receive specific budget requests. In addition, the National Center for Research Resources, in spite of its impending dissolution, submitted a budget request of $1.3 billion. The NIH budget request also projects a 2% decrease in Research Project Grant success rate, resulting in 228 fewer new competing grants. At the same time, the average grant size is expected to increase to $433,000, a jump of $16,000.
Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation received $895 million more than in FY10, leaving the agency with a final budget of $7.767 billion for FY12. NSF Director Dr. Subra Suresh described the budget request as necessary “to maintain the agency’s position as the nation’s engine of innovation in science, engineering and science education.” At a breakout session following Dr. Suresh’s presentation, NSF Directorate of Biological Sciences Acting Assistant Director Joann Roskoski detailed several projects, including the Research at the Interface of the Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (BioMaPS) program and the Cyberinfrastructure for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21) program, that would involve trans-directorate collaboration, one of the “pillars” of Dr. Suresh’s vision for the NSF.
Congressional hearings on the FY12 budget are expected to begin in late February. However, Congress must first wrap up work on the FY11 budget before the March 4 expiration of the continuing resolution currently funding the government.
ASBMB will continue to monitor the situation both on Capitol Hill. Stay tuned to the ASBMB Policy Blotter for the latest updates!