Blog Archives

Congress Moves FY 2018 Spending Bills Ahead of August Recess

The House and Senate have worked in recent weeks to advance as many of the fiscal year (FY) 2018 annual appropriations bills as possible before heading out of town for the typical month-long August recess. Details have been emerging on lawmakers’ funding plans for agencies and programs important to the COSSA community.

The House Appropriations Committee approved two bills this month that provide the bulk of funding support for the social sciences. The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation, Department of Justice, and Census Bureau, was approved on July 13. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which funds the National Institutes of Health and other HHS agencies, Department of Education, and Bureau of Labor Statistics, was approved on July 19. The next step for both bills is consideration by the full House; however, that is not likely to happen until after the August recess when Congress returns following Labor Day. Instead, the House will work this week toward passing a so-called “security mini-bus” that will include the Defense, Energy-Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-VA appropriations bills; the package is likely to also contain $1.6 billion for the construction of President Trump’s southern border wall, which as one could expect leaves the fate of the FY 2018 appropriations process on touchy ground.

Over on the Senate side, the Appropriations Subcommittees are just starting their work on their versions of the FY 2018 spending bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies appropriations bill on July 20; the House Appropriations Committee advanced its bill on July 12. In addition, the Senate CJS bill will be marked up in subcommittee on July 25 and by the full Appropriations Committee on July 27. But even if the Senate were able to complete work on the CJS bill before leaving for recess (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to delay the Senate’s recess until mid-August to allow time to finish work on the Obamacare repeal), the differences in top-line funding between the House and Senate leave final negotiations on all of the appropriations bills still a tall order.

Adding in plans by House and Senate leaders to strike a larger budget deal to lift the annual spending caps (which would require the appropriations bills to be rewritten, including those already approved by committee) and the need to raise the federal debt ceiling by early October, policy makers will return to Washington this fall with a lot on their plate before the current fiscal year expires on September 30.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Why Social Science? Highlights the National Academies’ SBE Report

why-social-scienceThis week’s Why Social Science? post highlights the recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, The Value of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities. Produced at the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the report assesses the contributions of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences to issues of national importance.
Read it here and subscribe.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 11), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

FY 2018 Funding Bills Off to a Slow Start

The House and Senate are heading down different paths as they attempt to kick-start the fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations process before the new fiscal year begins on October 1. As previously reported, the annual appropriations process is significantly delayed this year with the President’s budget request having been transmitted to Congress just last month (it is usually due in early February).

Appropriations subcommittees in both chambers have begun holding their annual hearings to discuss the budget requests for agencies under their purview (see related article on the NIH budget hearing). Some subcommittees have begun writing their appropriations bills, even without knowing what their spending allocation—the topline budget they are allotted for their bill—is for next year. Some have chosen to write their bills using current FY 2017 funding levels, while others are assuming small increases.

Given that there are less than 40 working days left before the next fiscal year begins, House leaders have expressed an interest in foregoing regular order altogether and instead crafting a catch-all omnibus appropriation bill. To accomplish this, however, subcommittees would need to start marking up and passing their bills out of committee over the next several weeks so they can be compiled into a 12-bill package before September 30.

The Senate, on the other hand, is taking a more deliberate approach and would prefer to advance each of the appropriations bills individually through the committee process before September so that they can be in a good negotiating position with the House when it comes time to finish up the bills later this fall.

Either way, we may start to see details of the appropriations bills of interest to the research community emerge following the July 4 recess.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 27), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

National Academies Highlights the Value of Social Science

At the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened an expert committee, chaired by Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to study the contributions of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences to the national interest. The committee’s report, The Value of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities, published last week, is a ringing endorsement of the importance of these fields to addressing “nearly every major challenge the United States faces.” The report draws three conclusions: (1) SBE sciences “produce a better understanding of the human aspects of the natural world, contributing knowledge, methods, and tools that further the mission of the National Science Foundation;” (2) SBE sciences provide understanding, tools, and methods that help other agencies achieve their missions; (3) the SBE sciences have made contributions that “have been applicable to businesses and industry and that have enhanced the U.S. economy.” To support its findings, the report provides supporting examples detailing the contributions of SBE research to health, prosperity and welfare, national defense, progress in science, missions of other agencies, and industry and business.

The committee also issued four recommendations for NSF and the broader SBE community: (1) NSF should undertake a systematic and transparent strategic planning process related to SBE sciences; (2) NSF should “continue to support the development of tools, methods, and research teams” to advance SBE sciences, facilitate their interactions with other fields, and help NSF and other organizations more effectively address national needs; (3) NSF should support training “consistent with the ways science is evolving across all scientific fields;” and (4) NSF should work to better communicate the results and value of the SBE research it supports and to encourage the broader scientific community to increase its own efforts to better communicate the value of SBE research.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 13), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

COSSA Releases Analysis of the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 Budget Request

The Trump Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request on May 23. The budget seeks dramatic reductions totaling $3.6 trillion across nearly every department of the federal government, including most science and research agencies. COSSA has prepared an in-depth analysis of the FY 2018 budget request, which includes details on the President’s proposals for the dozens of departments, agencies, and programs of interest to social and behavioral science researchers.

The release of the President’s budget request marks the official start of the FY 2018 appropriations process, though some Congressional committees have already begun holding their oversight hearings even without a budget in front of them. It is important to remember that the President’s budget is just one step in the annual appropriations process. Congress still holds the power of the purse. As always, COSSA will report on ongoing developments in the FY 2018 appropriations process in the COSSA Washington Update.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 30), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Census Bureau Director Resigns, Complicating Outlook for 2020 Decennial

On May 9, John Thompson announced his plans to step down as Director of the Census Bureau effective June 30. Thompson’s resignation comes at a critical time for the Bureau as it ramps up its activities ahead of the 2020 Census and continues to face periodic threats to the American Community Survey. So far, no details have emerged about a potential replacement. The Deputy Director position at the Bureau has been vacant since Nancy Potok left to become Chief Statistician of the United States in January.

No reason was given for Thompson’s departure in the middle of a year-long extension to his term (which had expired at the end of 2016).The week before this announcement, Thompson appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies for an oversight hearing on the 2020 Census. Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) had several sharp questions for the Director on projected cost overruns on IT systems for the decennial census, the government’s largest non-military undertaking. Culberson also expressed concern about the American Community Survey, calling it “intrusive.”

The next director will have to contend with a funding climate in which investment in the Bureau, which typically increases significantly in the years leading up to a decennial census, has fallen well below similar points in the cycle, with a fairly small increase passed for fiscal year (FY) 2017 and nearly flat funding proposed by the Administration for FY 2018. Without adequate investment, the task of conducting a fair and accurate 2020 Census will become increasingly challenging—and more expensive down the line.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 16), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Congress Reaches Agreement on FY 2017 Funding

On May 1, Congress announced that a bipartisan deal had been brokered to fund the federal government through the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2017. The omnibus appropriations bill includes 11 individual appropriations bills and keeps the government operating through September 30, 2017.

Should the bill pass this week, the final, much-delayed result for FY 2017 will be mostly positive for social and behavioral science research. Compared to where we have been in recent years and with all of the unknowns surrounding the Trump Administration’s position on science funding, this outcome is about the best we could have hoped for.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill.

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 2), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Why Social Science Is Marching for Science

why-social-science  MFS_logo

This week’s Why Social Science? takes a break from our regular guest posts to talk about the upcoming March for Science, and how and why social and behavioral scientists can get involved. Read it here and subscribe.

COSSA is an official partner of the March for Science. We are collecting information for social and behavioral scientists participating in the March for Science, both on the COSSA March for Science website and through a weekly newsletter that compiles the latest information and updates on March for Science activity (anyone can sign up to receive it here).

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 18), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Recap of the 2017 COSSA Science Policy Conference

COSSA held its 2017 Science Policy Conference and Social Science Advocacy Day on March 29-30 in Washington, DC. Sessions featured important discussions on social science within the context of the Trump Administration and the new Congress.

The keynote address was delivered by University of California, Berkeley sociologist Arlie R. Hochschild, whose book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. The program also included an expert panel addressing the political and policy challenges of the day and strategies for addressing them, and discussions on the benefits of public engagement by social scientists, mobilizing social science students, engaging with national media outlets, the role of social scientists in government service, and ways to meaningfully advocate from home. Click here for COSSA’s summary of the Conference sessions.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 4), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Trump Administration Releases Preliminary Details on FY 2018 Budget

On March 16, the Trump Administration released preliminary, high-level details of its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request, referred to as a “skinny budget.” Full budget details are expected sometime in May.

There are few surprises in the President’s “safety and security” budget blueprint. Major reductions are proposed for nondefense discretionary programs (including research accounts) in order to finance $54 billion in increases for the Department of Defense. Of course, to achieve such a reallocation, Congress would need to act to adjust the budget caps that are currently governing defense and nondefense discretionary spending; the President cannot unilaterally shift funds from nondefense accounts to defense under current law.

For now, the budget only includes proposals for Cabinet-level departments and a handful of other “major” agencies. For example, it includes preliminary details for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (which would take a $6 billion hit) but not for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Instead, NSF appears to be lumped in with “Other Agencies,” which collectively would receive a 10 percent cut in FY 2018 (see the chart below). This DOES NOT necessarily mean that NSF is slated for a 10 percent cut; we will have to wait to see the details in May.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the FY 2018 proposal as known so far.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 21), Update, Volume 36 (2017)


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