Congressional committees move budget bills

Before heading to the Memorial Day recess, several congressional committees took action on funding bills. As Congress returns to Washington, D.C. this week, the week of June 6, appropriators are scheduled to meet again.

On May 24, the US House Appropriations Committee approved its FY17 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill with funding for research programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA.

The bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion, a cut of $57 million from the FY16 enacted level. Within that total, funding for Research and Related Activities would increase by $46 million to $6.08 billion, and Education and Human Resources would be level-funded at $880 million. Funding for the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would drop to $87.1 million, a cut of $113 million from the FY16 enacted level of $200 million.

On peer review, the committee report (page 68) says, "The Committee has long been supportive of NSF's peer review process to identify and recommend funding for scientifically meritorious research," and goes on to direct NSF "to continue its efforts to ensure that award abstracts clearly explain in plain English the intent of the project and how the project meets both the intellectual merit and the broader impact review criterion. Improving the peer-review process and project abstracts are critical to protecting NSF's stellar scientific integrity."

There is no language in the report restricting the funding of the geosciences or the social sciences.  Directorate funding decisions would be made by NSF pending the outcome of the FY17 appropriations process.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies on May 25 approved its FY17 funding bill that sets aside $10 million for earthquake early warning and also includes a small increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

On May 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a version of the FY17 defense appropriations bill that would fund defense basic research at $2.265 billion—$207 million below the FY16 level of $ 2.31 billion , but $163 million above the President's FY17 request of about $2.10 billion.