President’s Budget Released, Eyes Turn to Congress

February 12, 2020

On February 10th, the administration kicked off the annual federal budgeting process by releasing a proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021. For the fourth straight year, President Donald Trump proposed sizable reductions in federal research budgets of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Congress has not only rejected similar proposed cuts in the past, but also provided increases to research budgets, in particular to NIH. FABBS has already begun advocating for strong funding for science budgets in FY 2021, visiting with Congressional offices and drafting letters and testimony in support of federal agencies supporting behavioral and brain science.

The proposed budget includes a $3 billion (7.2 percent) cut to the NIH budget, which was $42 billion in FY 2020. Details of the FY 2021 proposal are available in the Congressional Justification. The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, of which FABBS is a member, released a press statement, urging Congress to reject the proposal which would “would devastate the agency’s ability to pursue promising new science to improve and save lives.” Ad Hoc will be advocating for $44.7 billion, a $3 billion increase to the NIH budget. Last year, Congress approved an NIH budget that far exceeded the Ad Hoc request. In addition to advocating for the topline NIH budget, FABBS participates in numerous coalitions to support individual institutes including NIA, NIAAA, NICHD, and NIDA. Not all institutes have a Friends group.

For the NSF, the administration recommends $7.74 billion, a $.54 billion (6.5 percent) cut from the FY2020 enacted budget of $8.28 billion. The proposal includes a 9 percent cut to the Social, Behavioral and Economics (SBE) Directorate and double-digit percent cuts from 2019 to the biology and geosciences directorates. Furthermore, the budget would shrink the graduate research fellowship program by 20 percent, to 1600 annual slots. The Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate received a 1 percent cut from FY 2020 enacted. These cuts are a dramatic contrast to NSF authorizing legislation introduced last month by 11 Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives that proposed a 10-year doubling of NSF and other leading federal agencies that support the physical sciences. FABBS is a member of the Coalition for National Science Funding and encourages Congress to provide at least $9 billion to NSF in FY 2021.

The amount requested for the IES is $565.5 million dollars, a 9.3 percent decrease from the 2020 budget.  As in the previous year’s, the request includes proposals to eliminate Regional Education Laboratories, and the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems program. The congressional justification also included a proposal for the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act, which would consolidate the administrative powers IES has over appointments and evaluations. As members of the Friends of IES, FABBS will advocate for a budget of $670 million for IES in FY 2021.

Agency FY 2019 FY 2020 Requested Amount FY 2020 Approved Enacted FY 2021 Requested Amount % of Decrease from 2020 Enacted
NSF $8.1B $7.1B $8.28B $7.74B -6.5%
IES $615.5M $521M $623.4M $565.4M -9.3%
NIH $39.2B $34.4B $41.68B $38.7B -7.2%

Representatives from the administration including Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Russell Vought, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinHealthand Human Services Secretary Alex Azar provided testimony to House Budget and Senate Finance Committees this week.

Congress will determine spending for FY 2021, which begins on October 1, 2020. A budget deal made in July 2019 imposed tight caps on both defense and non-defense spending – a $2.5 billion increase, or only 0.4 percent more than the $632 billion for this year.