House Committee Flat Funds NSF Research in FY 2018; Senate Committee Cuts NSF Research Funding

July 27, 2017

House Appropriators have been busy, reporting out all twelve appropriations bills for consideration on the House floor. The spending allocations (known as “302b’s”) for most of the twelve bills were reduced, meaning that a number of agencies and programs included in the twelve bills would be cut.

The Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill (which funds the National Science Foundation, NASA, Department of Justice and other agencies) was no different, receiving $2.7 billion less to distribute than in FY 2017. Despite the lower allocation, the Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) moved forward the CJS bill which funds NSF, noting the need for a “big budget deal” to provide additional funds to some agencies and programs in the bill that faced cuts. Ranking Member Jose Serrano (D-NY) complimented Culberson on the bipartisan spirit, despite acknowledging that he could not support the bill given the allocation and resulting cuts.

NSF Funding in the House Committee

The House CJS bill provides $7.3 billion for NSF for FY 2018. While this is a cut of $133 million below FY 2017, the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) line that includes funding for the six research directorates [including Social, Behavioral, Economic (SBE) Sciences; Biological Sciences (BIO); Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE)] was funded at the FY 2017 level of $6 billion. During the full Committee markup, Rep. David Price (D-NC) offered an amendment to increase the R&RA line, but had to withdraw it since there was no offset. The Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate, which is funded separately from the other research areas, also received the same level of funding as in FY 2017.

Notably, neither the bill nor accompanying report language included any concerning language for the behavioral and social sciences. The report states that “the Committee continues to support funding for neuroscience research.” It also includes a section on “Abstracts and the national interest,” referencing a reauthorization bill that passed late last year directing NSF to justify the expenditure of federal funds for each research project it funds.

House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee Markup



Senate Action

In the Senate, the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies bill was allocated $53.4 billion, a decrease of $3.2 billion below FY 2017 (in contrast to $2.7 billion less in the House Committee). With less to distribute among the agencies in the bill, Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) stated that “the Committee [had to make] difficult but responsible decisions to produce a bill that strikes a financial balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development.”

The Senate CJS Appropriations bill funds the National Science Foundation at $7.3 billion, a $161 million decrease from FY 2017 (and $28 million more in cuts than the House). In contrast to the House, the Senate’s bill cuts the research line (from $6.034 billion to $5.918 billion) and education line (from $880 million to $862.4 million).

During the full Committee markup, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ranking Member of the CJS Subcommittee, offered an amendment that would increase the CJS bill’s allocation by $6.5 billion should a bipartisan budget deal be reached. She noted that while the Senate’s cut to NSF research and education is “far lower than what the Administration proposed, it is still damaging.” Shaheen’s amendment would increase NSF funding by 5% over FY 2017. However, the amendment failed on a 15-16 vote. The bill now awaits action on the Senate floor.

Senate Appropriations Committee Markup of CJS Bill