FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

“Regrettable Reductions”: Senate Appropriators on FY 2012 S&T Funding

Richard M. Jones
Number 114 - September19, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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“These are regrettable reductions that will result in real consequences.”  So state the members of the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee in describing recommended reductions of approximately 3 percent that were made to the FY 2012 budgets of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation, and NASA. 

The following selections are from Senate Report 112-78 accompanying S. 1572, the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  Future issues of FYI will provide selections from the 26 pages in the report regarding NSF, NASA, and NIST; see FYI #111 for summary numbers.

The initial pages of the Senate report provide insight into the perspective of Senate appropriators as they drafted their FY 2012 bill.  Selections follow:

“For fiscal year 2012, the Committee recommends total discretionary appropriations of $52,701,000,000, along with an additional $135,000,000 in funding for natural disasters, for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. This amount is $626,000,000 below the fiscal year 2011 level and $4,969,684,000 below the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget request.  These reductions, made pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011, [that was enacted following this summer’s intense negotiations between the Administration and Congress] required the Committee to reduce nearly every account in the bill below fiscal year 2011 levels. 

“Within the amounts provided, the Committee has chosen to prioritize activities that save lives, protect the safety of our citizens, and create jobs.

“The Committee faced two very pressing funding challenges that are critical to life and safety -- funding for the Nation’s next generation weather satellites for timely and accurate forecasts of severe weather, and adequate funding to safely guard the Nation’s growing prison population. While these activities are not considered mandatory for budget purposes, they are not truly discretionary in that the Committee has an obligation to adequately fund them regardless of budgetary constraints.

“The Committee’s recommendation for the Joint Polar Satellite System [JPSS], which will provide timely data for more accurate severe weather forecasts, is nearly $437,000,000 more than fiscal year 2011 to enable the earliest possible launch in order to minimize any gap in weather data. Salaries and associated expenses for guarding and transporting the Federal prison population are funded at more than $350,000,000 more than fiscal year 2011 to ensure that our Federal prisons are adequately staffed and to enable the activation of new prisons that have been built but are currently sitting empty due to lack of funds.

“Funding these pressing challenges within current budgetary constraints required reductions for activities that the Committee has historically chosen to fund. 

“Specifically, the bill eliminates 30 programs funded in prior years. Personnel and operations funding for the departments, agencies, and commissions funded in this bill are reduced by approximately 2 percent below fiscal year 2011 levels, with the expectation that agencies must become more frugal, and can and should achieve efficiencies in all operations. Funding for grant programs and scientific research is reduced even further.

“These are regrettable reductions that will result in real consequences.  For example, in the area of funding for State and local law enforcement, the Committee’s recommendation provides roughly $2,300,000,000, which is more than $470,000,000 below fiscal year 2011, a nearly 17 percent reduction. . . .”

“In the area of scientific discovery and development of new technologies, the Committee’s recommendation constitutes an approximately 3 percent reduction to research at NIST and NSF, and to NASA. In past years, the Committee has been able to recommend an annual 7 percent increase in NIST and NSF funding as authorized by the bipartisan America COMPETES Act. Reductions to NSF research will result in 380 fewer grants supporting 4,400 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel.  Reductions to NASA at this critical time in the agency’s transition from the space shuttle legacy to new vehicles for human spaceflight will challenge the agency to make every dollar count.

“The Committee’s recommendation also reduces funding for economic and trade agencies below fiscal year 2011 levels, which will restrict new economic initiatives. . . .”

“While the Committee regrets the reductions, the recommended bill reflects the Committee’s strong commitment to protecting life and safety, while continuing healthy levels of investment for scientific research and discovery and supporting an innovation friendly government to foster job creation and to protect the ideas we develop.

“The bill fully funds the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office [PTO], which fosters American innovation and job creation by providing protections for ideas and products developed by our entrepreneurs, businesses, and academic institutions. . . .”

“For science and basic research at NSF, NIST, and NASA, the bill invests more than $12,000,000,000 to support America’s next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. At NSF, the bill will support more than 225,000 researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel.

“Within the science agencies, the Committee has focused on high impact research and development. For example, the bill funds cyber security research at NIST and NSF to keep American Government and private sector networks strong, and to respond to growing cyber threats. The bill also supports growing new American businesses by funding the Regional Innovation Program at the [Commerce Department’s] Economic Development Administration. The bill invests in our Nation’s new space launch system to send our astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, and invests in new industries to safely deliver them to and from the International Space Station.

“The Committee also continues to emphasize assistance to expand export markets for U.S. businesses overseas. The bill continues to invest in the Department of Commerce’s efforts to promote U.S. companies overseas which have a direct connection to creating jobs at home. . . . ”

“So while the overall CJS [Commerce, Justice Science FY 2012] appropriations bill is below fiscal year 2011 levels, and many programs are reduced, the bill continues to have significant impacts on U.S. job creation -- now and into the future.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics