What the U.S. House budget proposal could mean for science funding

On March 20, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released the House budget resolution for fiscal 2013. The House budget proposal caps discretionary spending (the portion of government funding for science-funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation) by $1.03 trillion. This level is actually $19 billion below the cap set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

While the FY13 budget is 99 pages long, it does very little in actually laying out a plan for where those cuts will from. To say that the budget proposal neglected to address some key areas of federal funding, would be an understatement. The plan makes only one mention of research, stating that “this budget would continue funding essential government missions, including energy, security and basic research and development.”

Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration was less than enthusiastic about the House budget proposal. The acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jeffrey Zients, released a response  on March 21, focusing on the effects of the proposal on non defense discretionary spending.

Zients had this to say about how the spending cuts could specifically affect the research enterprise:

“Investments in science, medical research, space and technology would be cut by more than $100 billion over the next decade. The number of new grants from NIH for promising research projects would shrink by more than 1,600 in 2014 and by over 16,000 over a decade, potentially curtailing or slowing research to fight Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and AIDS.  The National Science Foundation would cut over 11,000 grants over the next decade, eliminating support for over 13,000 researchers, students, and teachers in 2014 alone.”

The House Budget Committee approved the proposal by a vote of 19 to 18 on March 21. On March 29 the budget was passed by the full House with a 228-191 partisan vote. The Democratic leaders of the Senate Budget Committee have said that they don’t plan to pass a budget resolution because the Budget Control Act already has set the spending caps for FY13.

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