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FY 2016 Funding Approved (Positive Trends for S&T)


Greetings from D.C. The President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 into law just before Christmas, funding the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year. Included in the funding bill was, of course, appropriations for federal S&T efforts (aka the R&D budget component of the bill). Preliminary analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) indicates a generally positive result for federal S&T overall,continuing a 2-year upward trend after taking a hit during the “sequestration” period. According to AAAS, total federal R&D expenditures for FY 2016 come to about $148.6 billion (an increase of 8.1 percent over FY 2015 and a 1.5 percent increase over the President’s request for 2016). Defense R&D expenditures will increase to $78.4 billion (up 9.8 percent over 2015) and non-defense to $70.3 billion (up 6.4 percent from 2015). Basic research improves to $34.0 billion (up 5.2 percent); applied research to $37.0 billion (up 5.5 percent); development to $74.9 billion (up 10.3 percent), and facilities and equipment to $2.8 billion (up 16.7 percent).

Some agency R&D budget highlights include:

  • Department of Defense’s budget improves to $73.4 billion (up 10.3 percent), with increases for basic research (up 1.4 percent), applied (up 7.7 percent) and advanced technology (up 12.2 percent). Medical research and technology development increase 22.6 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively.
  • National Institutes of Health’sbudget will increase to $31.4 billion (up 6.6 percent), while other Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) components declined. Significant portions of that increase will go toward Alzheimer’s research, the new Precision Medicine initiative, and the BRAIN (Brain Research through Application of Innovative Technologies) initiative.
  • Department of Energy’s budget increases to $12.5 billion (up 6.3 percent), including increases to defense (3.0 percent), science (4.9 percent) and energy (15.8 percent) programs. DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office garnered a 14.3 percent increase (less than requested, but an improvement nonetheless).
  • NASA’s budget will increase to $13.3 billion (up 9.1 percent). This includes sizable increases to science programs (6.6 percent; with earth and planetary sciences earning the biggest bump), space technology (15.2 percent), and exploration (20.6 percent), with space launch systems and commercial spaceflight realizing significant gains).
  • Department of Agriculture’s budget improves to $2.6 billion (up 8.2 percent), with Agricultural Research Services (ARS) realizing a 15.1 percent boost, albeit primarily for facilities and equipment improvements.
  • Department of Commerce (NIST) will see a 16.5 percent increase (to $779 million) in its R&D budget, with much of that increase going to facilities construction.DOC (NOAA) also realizes increases across the board, up 22.9 percent to $838 million.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (down 1.3 percent) and U.S. Geological Survey (up 1.1 percent) remained relatively flat for FY 2016.

As AAAS also notes, one important takeaway from these funding levels for FY 2016 is that after “billions in lost funding since FY 2012” (due to sequestration), and following “a nascent funding recovery” over the past two funding cycles, “in FY 2016, many science agencies will now find themselves back at pre-sequestration budget levels, even adjusting for inflation.” This is the case for most, but not all agencies (e.g., neither USGS nor EPA have participated in that funding recovery). For the federal R&D budget as a whole, however, the trend certainly appears to be headed in the right direction.

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