Two months after agreeing to a two year budget deal that provides top line funding for FY 2016 and FY 2015 and provides relief to the sequestration cuts made law in 2013, Congress passed an omnibus bill funding the federal government for FY 2016 on December 18. The $1.5 billion omnibus bill provides funding increases for science at several federal agencies.
President Obama sent his final budget request to Congress on February 9. The budget includes funding increases for research and science education, including new initiatives to find cures for cancer, increase investment in clean energy research and development, and expand the nation’s investment in computer science. However, the funding the White House would need for these programs is greater than the amount Congress has allotted in its budget deal last fall. To get around this, the White House has categorized some of its requests as coming from mandatory funding, rather than discretionary, which in fact, it is not. Congress immediately rejected the distinction. With that said, the overall budget does provide insight into the President’s commitment to science and research if the budget decisions were up to him.
Note: Historically, nearly all federal research and development (R&D) has been supported through discretionary funding divided up by Congress through the annual appropriations process. The hite House has designated some spending in his FY 2017 request as mandatory. The mandatory spending proposal represents a new strategy the Administration is using in its request to fund it’s priorities while remaining within statutory caps on discretionary spending. Congressional buy-in for new mandatory spending is unlikely. All amounts listed in the chart include any funds that were considered mandatory in the request.