House Approves Flat 2011 Budget for Most Science Agencies

The House bill contains a few winners for the research community, including space science at NASA, the new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy at the Department of Energy, and competitive agriculture research.

U.S._House_SealThe three federal agencies that support the vast majority of academic research would receive no more money in 2011 than in 2010 under a spending bill that narrowly passed the House of Representatives. Although the Senate is working on a different version that would provide small increases for those agencies, the House vote is a clear signal that Congress has entered a new era of fiscal austerity.

Despite the opposition of 35 Democrats, the House leadership prevailed on a 212 to 206 vote that would hold overall discretionary spending to $1.09 trillion. That figure matches 2010 spending levels and is $46 billion below what President Barack Obama had requested for 2011.

The House bill contains a few winners for the research community, including space science at NASA, the new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) at the Department of Energy, and competitive agriculture research. But that’s a meager harvest for those hoping for the generous increases—7% for the National Science Foundation (NSF), 3.2% for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and 4.4% for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science—that Obama had sought in a budget he submitted in February. Of course, that was before last month’s election, in which Republicans reclaimed the House, based in large part on a promise to shrink government spending.

“Yes, we must deal with long-term budget deficits,” said the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative David Obey (D-WI), in an angry statement on the House floor before the vote. “But if this country is to grow for everybody, we also need to confront our investment deficits in jobs, in education, in infrastructure, and science and technology.”

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Source: Jeffrey Mervis, Jocelyn Kaiser, and Eli Kintisch | Science Insider
Photo: U.S. House of Representatives