Mixed Signs for Federal Research Funding

A bipartisan group of House and Senate Appropriators left a November 2 meeting pessimistic about the chance of agreement on federal spending levels for fiscal year (FY) 2022. Earlier this year, Congress passed a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open through December 3, at which point a shutdown will go into effect if lawmakers are unable to find bipartisan agreement. Differences over the balance between defense and non-defense spending lawmakers suggesting another CR may be the only viable path forward.

Continuing resolutions maintain current funding levels and prevent major policy changes at federal agencies stalling scientific progress, creating uncertainty for funding agencies, and delaying important new investments. FABBS has joined with partners in the research community to emphasize to lawmakers the importance of avoiding another CR. Especially at a time when there is strong bipartisan support for new science investments, a failure to enact FY22 appropriations would be a deeply disappointing missed opportunity.

In hopes of an eventual FY22 budget, FABBS has joined coalition letters encouraging Congress to provide strong funding for NSF, NIH, and IES in an eventual FY 22 bill.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress continue to negotiate over the details of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” social spending plan. While the plan is still a work in progress, a recent discussion draft of the legislation provides insights into some of the smaller provisions, and offers some more encouraging signs for research investment.

The draft includes $3.5 billion for the National Science Foundation, scaled down from $11 billion, spread over the next four to six years varying by provision. This includes $675 million for existing research programs, $500 million to support climate research, and nearly $2 billion for a new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships, in addition to funding for programs to broaden participation and expand research infrastructure.

The National Institutes of Health was also included, albeit to a lesser extent, with $75 million for diversity efforts and $10 million to study early developmental delays, partially through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).  The bill also sets aside $15 million for NICHD to fund research on interventions to mitigate COVID-19 impacts on pregnant, lactating, and postpartum individuals.