FY 2020 Budget Signed Before Holiday, FY 2021 Budget May Face Hurdles

January 15, 2020

On December 20th, shortly before the continuing resolution that kept the government open expired, the President signed two FY 2020 spending packages. As in past years, despite significant cuts to science budgets in the President’s budget proposal, the final budget included increases for science.

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) – $41.7 billion, a $2.6 billion (6.65%) increase, $500 million for the BRAIN Initiative and increases for every NIH institute.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) – $8.28 billion, an increase of $203.3 million above the FY2019 enacted level and $1.2 billion above the President’s budget request. While it is an increase, the final budget was less than both the House ($8.64 B) and Senate ($8.32 B) bills, when it is typically somewhere in between.
  • Institute of Education Sciences (IES) – $623.5 million, an increase of $8 million, or 1.3 percent, over FY 2019.

Also of interest to FABBS members, report language addressed clinical trials and research on adolescent exposure to media.

“Clinical Trials Policy.-The agreement supports NIH’s recent announcement to delay the implementation of certain registering and reporting requirements for basic experimental studies with humans. The agreement urges NIH to continue its efforts, including working with the basic research community, to achieve a balanced registration and reporting strategy that meets the interests of study participants, investigators, and taxpayers. NIH is directed to report to the Committees no less than 60 days prior to moving forward with any new proposals for registering basic experimental studies with humans as clinical trials.” (page 72)

NICHD report language – “Impact of Technology and Digital Media on Children and Teens.-The agreement recognizes that children’s and teens’ lives increasingly involve widespread technology use and consumption of digital media. The agreement encourages NIH to prioritize research into how these types of stimuli affect young people’s cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional outcomes, including attention, sleeping routines, and anxiety.” (page 61)

Looking to the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget process, preliminary work in the House and Senate could get going relatively quickly after the President releases his budget proposal expected on February 10. A bipartisan budget deal (PL 116-37) reached last summer determined the overall discretionary spending levels for FY 2021, allowing for a combined overall increase of $5 billion over FY 2020.

Unfortunately, with impeachment and the presidential election sure to consume the time and energy of most lawmakers, even if we see early activity, final negotiations are likely to get put on hold. Some circles are already predicting a continuing resolution for FY 2021 that will go through the November elections, requiring a lame-duck Congress to pass spending packages or passing the responsibility to the new Congress next January.

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