Congress Makes Progress on Funding Bills

On October 18, the Senate Appropriations Committee introduced spending legislation that covers agencies responsible for funding the behavioral and brain sciences. This is an encouraging sign amidst a background of ongoing intra-party debates over major pending legislation. Thankfully, Congressional Appropriators have continued working towards passing regular appropriations that would provide funding increases and direction for agencies in Fiscal Year 2022.

On September 30, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to avoid a government shutdown. This stop-gap funding measure maintains current funding levels at federal agencies through December 3, by which point both the House and Senate will have to pass spending bills, and negotiate any differences, to again avoid shutdown. Continuing Resolutions interrupt agency plans and jeopardize work that has already been done to support funding increases and policy wins for the behavioral and brain sciences.

Institute of Education Sciences

The Senate legislation included a $172 million increase for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and, importantly, $67.5 million for program administration expenditures which cover staffing. IES leadership has emphasized that additional staff are necessary to maximize increased research investments. As a member of the Friends of IES, FABBS has worked to support strong funding for the agency, requesting $737.5 million in line with the President’s proposed budget.

Note: Program administration funding was previously included in a different account, meaning, adjusted for comparability, the year-over-year increase in this bill is more accurately about $108 million.

National Institutes of Health

The bill would also provide a $5 billion increase at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with funding increases across every Institute. Importantly, the Committee Report language which accompanies the legislation includes language supporting a funding increase for the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), in line with directives from the House version of the bill. FABBS worked with partners in the research community to request at least $46.1 billion for NIH in fiscal year 2022.

“As multiple Surgeons General and the National Academy of Medicine have declared that most health problems facing the nation have significant behavioral components, the Committee strongly supports the continued strengthening of the behavioral science enterprise at NIH and urges OBSSR funding be increased to accomplish this mission… The Committee encourages OBSSR activities aimed at strengthening these sciences by enhancing trans- NIH investments in longitudinal datasets, technology in support of behavior change, innovative research methodologies, and integration of behavioral and social sciences in initiatives across the NIH.”

Also of interest to FABBS members, the Committee report specifically calls for an $80 million increase, or more than 14 percent, for the NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Dr. John Ngai, the Director of the BRAIN Initiative, recently spoke to FABBS about some of the opportunities available to researchers and the direction of the program moving forward.

Senators also included $2.5 billion for the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), with the caveat that funding would only be available should Congress pass legislation specifically establishing ARPA-H.

National Science Foundation

The Appropriations Committee allocated $9.5 billion for the National Sciences Foundation (NSF), a 12 percent increase. This increase includes $138 million for existing programs and up to $865 million for a new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships. The Coalition for National Science Funding, co-chaired by FABBS Executive Director Juliane Baron, spent time this year meeting with Congressional offices in support of NSF and wrote to appropriators requesting at least $10 billion for the Foundation in 2022.

Department of Defense

The Committee also introduced legislation outlining spending priorities at the Department of Defense, which include substantial increases to basic research programs across Pentagon research accounts. Senators specifically called for increases at the MINERVA Research Initiative and the Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health Medical Research Program.