FY 2019 U.S. Federal Budget 

The White House released its budget proposal on Monday, February 12, 2019, entitled “Efficient, Effective, Accountable:  An American Budget.”  The President’s proposal includes two ways it plans to “stretch” NIH grant funding in FY 2019: by capping the amount of an investigator’s total salary that can be paid by grants to 90% and by reducing the maximum amount of salary that can be paid with NIH grant funds from $187,000 to $152,000. At NSF, the President proposes funding the agency at FY 2017 levels.  Funding for research would increase by $145 million, or 2%; funding for the education directorate would remain flat; and funding for large new facilities would be cut in half. The NSF is proposing to build only two of three mid-sized research vessels Congress had directed the Foundation to build.

Congress has a little more wiggle room for FY 2019 than it would have had under the Budget Control Act of 2011.  On February 9, 2018, the President signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892), after both the Senate and House  approved the bill. The agreement funds the federal government through March 23, 2018, raises the debt ceiling, and includes an agreement to raise the spending caps set by Budget Control Act (also known as  sequestration) for 2018 and 2019. The deal to raise the spending caps applies to both defense and nondefense discretionary programs but raises the caps for defense programs $165 billion and nondefense only $131 billion over the next two years. It clears the way to provide additional funding to programs both Democrats and Republicans care about, including at least a $1 billion increase for NIH in both FY 2018 and FY 2019.  

The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, of which the Society is a member, issued a statement praising the increase in discretionary spending caps, expressing appreciation that the deal acknowledges the NIH as a critical national priority, and reiterating its FY 2018 recommendation of “at least $36.1 billion for the NIH, in addition to dedicated funding through the 21st Century Cures Act and other funding devoted to specific priorities.”

The Coalition for National Science Funding, of which the Society is also a member, wrote to House and Senate Commerce-Justice-Science appropriators to request $8 billion for NSF in FY18 to reflect four percent real growth over FY16. "This requested increase of four percent real growth," the letter says, "is consistent with the first recommendation in the clarion call-to-action, “Innovation: An American Imperative,” which more than 500 organizations from all 50 states representing industry, academia, and scientific and engineering societies have endorsed."

The Energy Sciences Coalition (ESC), which includes the Biophysical Society, sent a letter to Congress thanking them for lifting the sequestration-level budget cap for non-defense discretionary spending.  The letter also urges Congress to provide the DOE Office of Science $5.7 billion in FY 2018. This level of funding is consistent with ESC FY 2018 funding statements, which were delivered to Congress in April and December of 2017.

FY  2018 U.S. Federal Budget

Congress has yet to pass a budget for FY 2018, which started on October 1, 2017. Instead, the government has been funded by a series of continuing resolutions that provide funding at the level of FY 2017. The next continuing resolution expires on March 23, 2018.

FY 2016–FY 2018 Appropriations for Science Agencies (in millions)


FY 2016 Enacted

FY 2017 Enacted

President's FY 2018 Request

 Percent Change between FY 2017 and FY 2018 Request











Office of Science





Science Office






A Primer:  Sequestration and Nondefense Discretionary (NDD) Programs

 What is sequestration?

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) established caps on discretionary spending over 10 years, resulting in $1 trillion in cuts spread across discretionary programs. The law also directed a Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to identify an additional $1.2 trillion in budgetary savings over ten years. The failure of the bi-partisan “super committee” to come to an agreement on a deficit reduction plan triggered “sequestration” to take effect on January 2, 2013.

To sequester means to set apart or to take something away until a debt has been repaid. In the context of funding federal programs, sequester means imminent, across-the-board cuts to most programs, both defense and nondefense—in addition to the $1 trillion in cuts already sustained through the Budget Control Act’s discretionary caps.

There are a few discretionary programs that are exempt from sequestration in the first year, such as Pell grants in the Department of Education. Some mandatory programs, such as Medicaid, are also exempt from the sequester.

What is “NDD?”

When thinking about the federal budget, policymakers differentiate between discretionary programs and “entitlement” programs.  Discretionary programs are those that Congress funds annually through the appropriations process. “Entitlement” programs are those that are funded almost automatically to meet the needs of all who qualify for them.  Every year Congress must make an active decision on whether to fund discretionary programs and at what level.  

Nondefense discretionary or “NDD” programs are all the programs that the  government funds  for the benefit of all outside of defense programming, including medical and scientific research; education and job training; infrastructure; public safety and law enforcement; public health; weather monitoring and environmental protection; natural and cultural resources; housing and social services; and international relations.

How is the sequester affecting nondefense discretionary programs?

In 2013, the sequester reduced most NDD programs by 5%. These cuts were across the board, with almost no departmental or agency control on how the sequester impacts individual programs.  In 2014-2017, sequestration cuts did not occur because the Congress agreed to temporarily raise the limits on spending for both defense and NDD programs and proceeded to passed was within the new limits.  No such plan is in place for 2018, and Congress does not seem to be on path to honoring equal cuts between nondefense and defense programs moving forward.

Sequestration will continue to occur in outgoing years unless Congress changes the law or meets ever-decreasing spending limits on the federal budget in its annual appropriations process. 

What can you do? 

Let your Congressmen know that the nondefense discretionary community, including scientific research, has already done its part to reduce the deficit, and that any plan to reduce the deficit should not include more NDD cuts that harm American families.

Recommended message: “I support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs. These programs have already contributed to deficit reduction through the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA) and prior spending cuts."

Want to know more?

The AAAS Budget and Policy Program is one of the premier sites for information on research and development funding in the federal budget.  Be sure to check here for in depth analysis of the President's proposal as well as historical budget information.