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OMB/OSTP Release FY 2014 Budget Guidance

DConT2
Greetings from D.C. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) have issued budget guidance for agency heads to consider when developing their budgets for FY 2014. The first memo covers budget issues generally, and the second covers S&T issues specifically. As usual, there are potential impacts in each for research and development (R&D), and associated missions (e.g., federal technology commercialization). In the general guidance memo (May 18), the key point under the heading 2014 Discretionary Budget Submission (R&D is a discretionary item) is the following, “[U]nless your agency has received different guidance from OMB, your overall agency request for 2014 should be 5 percent below the net discretionary total provided for your agency for 2014 in the 2013 Budget.” While the reductions are not simply to be evenly distributed, across-the-board cuts, and some programs will no doubt increase while others decrease, the overall message is "less not more." In the second memo, with specific direction regarding multi-agency science and technology programs (June 6), the message is less explicit but similar – fill the government's role of funding scientific efforts while finding ways to hold the line on overall expenditures. Recognizing the “crucial government role in supporting research,” the guidance notes that priority should be given to funding research over development activities. It goes on to encourage agencies to “direct resources to high-priority activities and identify potential eliminations or reductions in less-effective, lower quality, or lower priority programs.” As one would expect, agencies are encouraged to avoid duplication of effort and, further, to explain in their budget plans how they are redirecting resources from low-priority activities to higher priority (particularly multi-agency) activities. Those multi-agency priorities include advanced manufacturing, clean energy, global climate change, R&D for informed policy-making and management, information technology R&D, nanotechnology, biological innovation, STEM education, innovation, and commercialization. With regard to innovation and commercialization, the memo notes that “[A]gencies should promote innovation and commercialization from Federal R&D investments, where appropriate, through support for inducement prizes, early-stage technology development, university-industry partnerships, and efforts to better link graduate training with both private- and public-sector workforce needs. Such efforts should be aligned with the Administration's Cross-Agency Priority Goal to improve performance across Federal services for entrepreneurs and small businesses.” While it is not unusual or unexpected to have budget guidance focused on efforts to hold spending requests, given the current climate (i.e., the upcoming election, concerns over the budget deficit) and recent past events (i.e., last year's highly charged game of "chicken" regarding raising the debt ceiling and the last minute "compromise" on budgetary matters), any indication that budgets will fall or not increase as hoped for should be given more weight this time. You can find the general budget guidance memo here, the S&T-specific memo here, and the Cross Agency Priority goals for small businesses and entrepreneurs here. Email Gary.
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