President Signs Final FY 2017 Appropriations Bill - S&T Does Well

President Signs Final FY 2017 Appropriations Bill - S&T Does Well


Greetings from D.C.  The President has now signed into law the final appropriations bill for FY 2017 (HR 244).  The omnibus bill provides for over $1 trillion in discretionary spending and funds all of the science agencies through the end of September 2017.

Of most interest to the S&T community are the provisions for federal funding to support science and technology efforts. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) reflects the opinion of most organizations tracking the federal R&D budget when it notes that, for the remainder of FY 2017 at least, Congress has rejected the Administration’s proposed cuts to various science efforts and decided to “stay the course and fund the science agencies at levels within or near the ranges approved by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees last summer.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) echoes those thoughts when it notes that “scientists and engineers can exhale a sigh of relief … According to current AAAS estimates, the omnibus bill [will] increase federal R&D by five percent above FY 2016 levels, with increases for basic and applied research, development, and R&D facilities funding.”

According to an initial analysis by AAAS, total R&D in the omnibus is $155.8 billion (a 5-percent increase over FY 2016), with a slightly larger increase for defense R&D.  These totals include a 4.1-percent increase for basic research, a 6.3-percent increase for applied research, and a 4-percent increase for development.  Facilities and equipment will also increase by 2.9 percent.  AAAS estimates that federal R&D is at its highest percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) since the year before sequestration.

Here are selected implications for agency S&T funding (from the above AAAS link, with my emphasis added).

“DOD science and technology spending would see a general rise across most military branches and agencies, though this is particularly concentrated on applied research and advanced technology in sensors, materials, and other areas.”

“DOE’s Office of Science would receive only a 0.8 percent increase in the omnibus, but this includes a steep cut to ITER, the international fusion reactor under construction in France. … [Surprisingly, given the current Administration’s position on programs such as ARPA-E] all five [DOE technology programs] would receive at least modest increases.”

“NIH is one of the big winners in the omnibus with a $2 billion increase above FY 2016 levels, good for a 6.2 percent increase.”

“The total NASA budget came out at a full $1.4 billion above the FY 2017 discretionary request, amidst strong congressional support for the space agency. Nearly all of the increase within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) would go towards Planetary Science.”

“The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s main in-house research arm, would see a $26 million or 2.3 percent increase in its research account.”

“NIST’s core laboratories … would be flat-funded from the previous year. … Funding for both the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) would remain the same as last year’s level.”

“NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would see an overall substantial $32 million or 6.7 percent increase above FY 2016, with funding prioritized for weather and air chemistry research.”

See the AAAS link above, along with the AIP Budget Tracker and a State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) summary for a more detailed and comprehensive agency-by-agency perspective on the state of the FY 2017 federal R&D budget.  Of course, this only covers the next 5 months; the next challenge for S&T funding will come in the FY 2018 budget debate—the first full budget of the current Administration.

Gary can be reached at

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