Senate Poised to Vote and the President Expected to Sign a Budget Deal for FY2020

December 18, 2019

On December 17th, the House of Representatives voted to approve two minibus spending packages (HR 1158 National Security and HR 1865 Domestic) that together contain all 12 Fiscal Year 2020 spending bills. The Senate is expected to vote on both minibus packages on Thursday, with only one day until the December 20th deadline. In order to avoid a government shutdown, the President is expected to sign. If passed, these bills will fund the federal government until September 30, 2020.

The $1.4 trillion spending deal announced by appropriators on Monday would increase budgets for scientific research.

National Institutes of Health – The bill provides a total of $41.7 billion for NIH, an increase of $2.6 billion (6.65 percent boost) above the 2019 enacted level and $7.5 billion above the President’s budget request. Every NIH institute received at least a 3.3 percent increase above FY 2019.

  • $500 million for the Brain Research through Application of Innovation Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, an increase of $71 million
  • $500 million for the All of Us precision medicine initiative, up $161 million;
  • More than $800 million for opioid addiction research, alternative pain management research, and treatment
  • $2.8 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, an increase of $350 million
  • $3.9 billion for mental health programs, which represents an increase of $328 million
  • $12.5 million for firearm injury and mortality prevention research

National Science Foundation – The proposed budget includes $8.28 billion for NSF, an increase of $203.3 million above the FY2019 enacted level and $1.2 billion above the President’s budget request. This increase is below levels adopted separately by the House and Senate, likely due to a low allocation for the Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee. It is important to note that the bill includes $6.74 billion, an increase of $217.2 million above FY 2019, for the Research and Related Activities Account. The Education and Human Resources Directorate received a commensurate increase to $940 million in FY 2020.

Institute of Education Sciences – The top line for IES is $623.5 million, an increase of $8 million, or 1.3 percent, over FY 2019 and $101.9 million above the President’s request of $521.6 million for FY 2020. Most programs received a 1-2 percent increase, with Special Education Studies and Evaluations as the only program held flat.

The report accompanying the NIH budget includes language (below) of interest to the behavioral and brain sciences community. Appropriators direct NIH to work with the community to achieve a balanced registration requirement for Basic Experimental Studies with Humans (BESH) and to report back to the community. Additional language encourages NICHD to prioritize research on how media exposure affect young people, including cognitive outcomes, attention and sleeping routines.

While it is good news that the proposed budget includes increases for science, the deal is over two months late, creating challenges for science programs. Continuing resolutions can result in spending slowdowns at agencies, and delays in hiring, contracting, and in pursuing new projects. Having a final FY 2020 budget will allow appropriators to start work on the FY 2021 budgets in February.

“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 72 Committees no less than 60 days prior to moving forward with any new proposals for registering basic experimental studies with humans as clinical trials.” 

“NICHD – 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.”

“Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research.- The agreement includes $12,500,000 to conduct research on firearm injury and mortality prevention. Given violence and suicide have a number of causes, the agreement recommends the NIH take a comprehensive approach to studying these underlying causes and evidence based methods of prevention of injury, including crime prevention. All grantees under this section will be required to fulfill requirements around open data, open code, pre-registration of research projects, and open access to research articles consistent with the National Science Foundation’s open science principles. The Director of NIH is to report to the Committees within 30 days of enactment on implementation schedules and procedures for grant awards, which strive to ensure that such awards support ideologically and politically unbiased research projects.”