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FY 2017 and 2018 Budget Updates


Greetings from D.C.  With Congress now in a long recess (back on September 6) and then on to what will most certainly be a reduced work schedule as we head into the final days before the election, legislative activity has slowed significantly.  One item that must be addressed before the end of September, of course, is the FY 2017 budget.  Here are a brief status and thoughts from those who pay close attention to this issue—particularly the R&D budget.

At the time of the recess, the full House and Senate had each approved very few of their respective appropriations bills.  The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provides an overview of where science and technology (S&T) funding currently stands.  As it noted, “[O]verall R&D budget figures are predictably modest—with the exception of NIH [which has received a $1B increase from House appropriators and a $2B increase in the Senate].  The spending caps reached in last year’s budget deal were always going to limit the upside for science funding this appropriations cycle.  Under that deal, discretionary spending, which provides most science and technology funding, is essentially flat in FY 2017 …”

Which brings us once again to the need for a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded past the end of the fiscal year.  As the American Institute of Physics (AIP) stated, “[C]ongress will almost certainly pass one or more stopgap spending measures before reaching a final agreement on funding for fiscal year 2017.  The question now becomes whether the current Congress and outgoing president will finalize an agreement in the lame-duck session or instead hand off responsibility for the final negotiations to the 115th Congress and the incoming administration.” 

On the subject of stopgap measures—or continuing resolutions (CRs) as they are known—the question is no longer will we have one (regardless of party in power), but “how many” and “for how many days total.”  The AIP post includes a Congressional Research Service chart that shows the number of CRs and total days under a CR for every year since 1998 (yes, there has been a CR every year since 1998 and, as noted later in the article, for 36 of the past 40 years).  Since 1998, there have been 9 years where the CR(s) lasted longer than 100 days (making that the over/under for the office pool, I suppose).

Finally, at some point there will be an FY 2017 budget including, of course, funding for federal R&D programs.  While that effort plays out, the process for developing the FY 2018 budget moves on—sort of.  Just as the coming election impacts the strategy and logic for passing a CR, the changing of administrations also impacts the preparation for the next budget cycle. 

In its annual Memorandum to Agency Heads describing the process for developing the budget proposal for the FY 2018 fiscal year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) makes it clear that the FY 2018 budget “will be submitted by the next President.”  The memo goes on to state that “[I]n order to lay the groundwork for the incoming administration, we intend to prepare a budget database that includes a complete current services baseline.  OMB also plans to gather information necessary to develop current services program estimates for FY 2018, as well as other budget and programmatic information from which the incoming administration can develop its budget proposals.  You are not required to submit a formal budget request to OMB in September, and there will be no formal Director's Review or Passback processes this fall” (emphasis added).

Gary can be reached at gkjones.ctr@federallabs.org.

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