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House Members Join Together to Support NIH, Title VI International Education in Dear Colleague Letters

As Congress begins deliberations on fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending, groups of Representatives have joined together to express their support for federal programs, including those important to the social and behavioral sciences. A bipartisan group of 82 representatives signed on to a “Dear Colleague letter” in support of the Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays and Title VI international education programs. The letter calls for at least $72.16 million for the two programs. Separately, a bipartisan group of 209 Representatives also joined together to express support, and request $38.4 billion, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 3), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on NSF Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request

On March 15, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to discuss the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2019. Witnesses included NSF Director France Córdova, National Science Board Chair Maria Zuber, and NSF Chief Operating Officer Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) presided over the hearing and used his opening statement to express concern about several grants NSF has supported in the past that he does not consider to be addressing issues of national importance, a concern echoed by many other Republican members of the committee. Smith also expressed concern, shared by committee members on both sides of the aisle, that the U.S. is falling behind its international competitors in investment in research and development.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the top-ranking Democrat on the committee, used her opening statement to share her concern with NSF’s budget request being flat compared with the agency’s FY 2017 appropriation, and NSF’s proposed disproportionate cuts to education programs and the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate. Other members of the committee, including Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Paul Tonko (D-NY), expressed concern about the proposed cuts to the SBE Directorate. While not in attendance at the hearing, Dan Lipinski (D-IL) issued a statement for the record that expressed disappointment in the disproportionate cut to SBE.

Drs. Córdova and Zuber defended the agency’s support for the SBE sciences. Córdova shared that spectrum auctions, life-saving markets for kidney donations, and research in risk and resilience to natural disasters are all contributions of SBE-directorate supported research. Zuber added that the SBE directorate has supported research to understand what draws people to join violent extremist groups and that SBE-supported research in facial recognition aided in the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers.

Drs. Córdova, Zuber, and Ferrini-Mundy answered questions about NSF’s merit review process, U.S. international competitiveness in research, sexual harassment in science, STEM education, and other topics. Their full written testimony and a webcast of the hearing is available here.

Read COSSA’s full analysis of NSF’s FY19 budget request here.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 20), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

NSF Releases Additional Details of FY 2019 Budget Request

On February 28, full details of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) were released. Preliminary details were unveiled on February 12 with the rest of the President’s FY 2019 budget.

The President’s request includes a total of $7.5 billion for NSF in FY 2019, which is flat with the FY 2017 enacted level (Note: FY 2018 appropriations have not yet been completed, so comparisons are made to the last enacted level). As previously reported, prior to enactment last month of a bipartisan budget deal to raise discretionary spending caps, the Administration’s budget proposal for NSF was $5.3 billion, a nearly 30 percent cut to the agency. Unfortunately, the newly released details show that the additional funding associated with raising the caps would not be spread evenly across the foundation. Instead, the request seeks to reprioritize funds toward NSF’s Big Ideas initiatives at the expense of several existing programs and activities. Of particular concern is the disproportionate treatment of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) in the request, which would see a cut of 9.1 percent from FY 2017 (11.2 percent to its research and education activities). This is compared to the other directorates that would be held flat or cut by one or two percent.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the NSF FY 2019 Budget Request.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 6), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Trump Releases FY 2019 Budget Request; Read COSSA’s Analysis of Social Science Impacts

On February 12, the Trump Administration began releasing details of its fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request to Congress, although details for some agencies (such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health) have yet to be released and are expected in the coming days or weeks. In light of a recent bipartisan agreement to increase discretionary spending over the next two years, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released an addendum to the FY 2019 budget outlining a number of adjustments to the budget request. However, the President’s views the new spending caps as a “ceiling” for FY 2019 funding, not as a funding target. As such, the request violates the budget deal by seeking to shift $57 billion away from nondefense discretionary spending and over to the defense side of the ledger.

The bottom line when considering the Trump Administration’s proposals for FY 2019 is that it remains a political, largely symbolic document that outlines the Administration’s priorities for the year ahead; take note of the policy priorities contained within the budget as they could shape some legislative and/or executive actions later in the year. However, Congress is not likely to go along with the bulk of the President’s recommendations, especially cuts for research and domestic programs writ large.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the President’s proposals as they pertain to social and behavioral science research. Supplements to this report will be issued as additional agency details are released.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 20), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

White House Outlines FY 2019 R&D Budget Priorities, Emphasizes Role of Industry

On August 17, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney, with Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant Secretary to the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2019 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities.” The R&D memo, along with an earlier memo released in July that outlines more general budget reforms, keeps with the practices of past administrations to lay out key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year. Of course, the priorities within the memos can differ dramatically depending on the Administration, which is the case with this year’s guidance.

The FY 2019 R&D memo acknowledges the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership, and particularly to issues of “national security, economic growth, and job creation.” However, there is some subtle, yet important language signaling possible shifts in this Administration’s priorities for science funding. For example, the memo states, “In spurring future advances, Federal funding of research and development programs and research infrastructure can play a crucial supporting role [emphasis added].” While it directs federal agencies to “continue, and expand where necessary, efforts to focus on basic research,” it directs agencies to reduce funding overlaps with private industry in later-stage research. It further states that “Working in tandem, the Government and the private sector can promote the nation’s economic growth through innovation, and create new products and services for the American people.”

The memo also outlines a number of priorities related to funding practices and accountability, including ensuring that “proposed programs are based on sound science, do not duplicate existing R&D efforts, and have the potential to contribute to the public good.” It further states that federal agencies should identify existing programs “that could progress more efficiently through private sector R&D, and consider their modification or elimination where Federal involvement is no longer needed or appropriate.”

Other key science priorities for the Trump Administration in FY 2019 include research “that can support the military of the future,” the development of “technologies necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, mitigate the effects of both natural and adversarial threats and hazards, and secure American borders,” and development of a domestic energy portfolio that includes “fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy sources.” As for biomedical (NIH) research, the memo calls for priority to be placed on programs “that encourage innovation to prevent, treat, and defeat diseases, and maintain America’s standing as a world leader in medicine.” Further, agencies should prioritize research addressing aging populations, drug addiction, and other public health challenges.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

OMB’s FY 2019 Budget Guidance Calls for Major Funding Reforms

On July 7, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), led by Director Mick Mulvaney, issued a memorandum to federal departments and agencies with guidance on how to approach development of the fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget submission. According to the memo, “the FY 2019 Budget will provide an opportunity to present a comprehensive plan for reforming the Federal Government and reducing the Federal civilian workforce. It also will reflect the first impacts of the Government reorganization called for by Executive Order 13781 [issued in March].” Budget submissions are expected to continue proposals included in the FY 2018 budget. Initial FY 2019 budget proposals from the agencies are due to OMB by September 11, 2017, even though agencies will not yet know what their FY 2018 budgets will be (see related article).

As you may recall, the Trump Administration implemented a temporary federal workforce hiring freeze during its first few weeks in office and issued a “Comprehensive plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.” Agencies’ FY 2019 budgets are expected to include “agency reform plans” that make proposals for eliminating activities, restructuring or merging, improving organizational efficiency and effectiveness, and workforce management.

Alongside submission of their budget proposals, agencies are also tasked with submitting draft strategic plans covering FY 2018-2022, a draft FY 2019 performance plan, and agency priority goals for FY 2018-2019. OMB will work with federal departments and agencies over the next several months to prepare the final FY 2019 budget request, which will be delivered to Congress in February 2018.

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


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