Congress has been on recess for the past five weeks, and will reconvene next week to discuss, among other things, funding the government for fiscal 2014. Before Congress adjourned, the FY14 appropriations process had come to a standstill after accomplishing very little. Many in Washington expect Congress to pass a continuing resolution for 60 or 90 days to fund the government for the rest of the calendar year.
How will this short-term CR affect science funding? Right now, it’s not possible to know the answer mainly because we do not know at what level Congress will fund the government. The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandates the maximum amount of federal funding for all discretionary programs, including science funding agencies, is $967 billion. This would be a $21 billion reduction from FY13, and surely the budgets of science funding agencies would be cut under this scenario. However, the easiest path to a bipartisan compromise on the FY14 CR may be to suspend the BCA mandate, and maintain federal spending at the FY13 level—$988 billion. In this scenario, science funding agencies are unlikely to see any significant budget changes during the term of the CR.
Sequestration and flat budgets for science funding agencies have put a significant strain on the American scientific enterprise, as demonstrated in our recent report, Unlimited Potential, Vanishing Opportunity. These difficulties have also recently been discussed in Chemical & Engineering News and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Stay tuned to the Policy Blotter as Congress returns from its recess and navigates the FY14 appropriations process.