HR 1473: Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

More than halfway through the fiscal year (FY), federal lawmakers finally finished their work on FY 2011 appropriations. After seven continuing resolutions and a near government shutdown, the deal to fund the federal government through the end of September 2011 was signed into law by President Obama on 15 April 2011. The final legislation received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The spending package cuts $39.9 billion relative to FY 2010 — less than the $61 billion House Republicans sought to cut. About $12 billion of the reductions were previously enacted in recent months. Non-defense agencies and programs were cut across the board by 0.2 percent from FY 2010 levels. Some agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Science Foundation, were targeted for additional reductions.

An analysis by the AIBS Public Policy Office found that the National Science Foundation (NSF) was cut by $67 million to $6.9 billion. This is more than half a billion dollars less than President Obama requested for the agency in FY 2011. Much of the reduction ($54 million) will come from the Research and Related Activities budget line. The Education and Human Resources budget account will lose about $12 million. No information is available yet regarding the budget for the Biological Sciences Directorate.

NSF’s one percent budget reduction was comparable to cuts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Energy Office of Science. NIH will receive $30.7 billion, about $322 million less than in FY 2010 and $1.4 billion less than the Obama Administration originally supported. NIH announced on 25 April 2011 that the one percent budget reduction would result in a comparable reduction in the size of ongoing research grants. Moreover, the size of grants awarded by the National Cancer Institute will decline by 3 percent. The agency also expects to make slightly fewer new awards for competitive research grants.

Other agencies are forced to make deeper reductions. Funding for science and technology at the EPA was reduced by 3.8 percent to $813 million. The United States Geological Survey received $1.08 billion, a $28 million cut (-2.5 percent). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was cut by 3.2 percent to $4.6 billion, although the larger issue may be the nearly $1 billion in new funding that the agency requested but did not receive. These funds are needed for the continued development of weather and climate satellites. Funding for competitive research grants at the Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture also fell far short of the President’s budget request. The extramural grant program will receive about 40 percent less funding than the agency requested.

Although the final agreement did not include any restrictions on EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, Republican lawmakers were successful in retaining other policy riders. The law includes provisions that remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves, prohibit funding from being used for the establishment of a climate service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and bar funds for the Department of the Interior’s “wild lands” policy to protect roadless areas. Additionally, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy will not be allowed to facilitate joint scientific efforts between the governments of the United States and China for the remainder of FY 2011. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA, has expressed hope that the ban may eventually be made permanent.

HR 1473 was signed into law on 15 April 2011.