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Science gets a major boost in 2018 US spending deal

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It took an extra six months, but Congress is close to finally completing its work on a spending plan for the 2018 fiscal year, which began last October. And it appears the delay has brought good news for many federal science agencies.

Lawmakers tonight released a $1.3 trillion spending package that largely rejects deep cuts to research agencies proposed by President Donald Trump, and in many cases provides substantial increases. Congress is expected to vote on the deal by the end of the week, barring last minute obstacles.

When it comes to federal research spending, there are “some silly good numbers in here at a glance,” tweeted Matt Hourihan, who analyzes U.S. science spending patterns for the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. (publisher of ScienceInsider). 

The increases were, in large part, made possible by an agreement reached earlier this year to raise mandatory spending caps on civilian and military spending that gave lawmakers an additional $300 billion to spend this year and next.

Here’s a preliminary look at some of the top line numbers for key science agencies:

  • The National Institutes of Health receives a $3 billion, 8.3% increase to $37 billion. That is well above the increase proposed by either the House of Representatives or the Senate in their versions of the spending bills, and a blunt rejection of the 22% cut proposed by the White House. Included is an additional $414 million for Alzheimer’s research, to $1.8 billion, and a $27 million boost, to $543 million, for clinical and translational science funding. The NIH increase is “beyond words, folks,” tweeted Benjamin Corb, the director of public affairs at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Rockville, Maryland.
  • The National Science Foundation would get $7.8 billion, a 3.9%, $295 million increase. The agency’s research account would grow by about 5%, to $6.3 billion. The bill notes “this strong investment in basic research reflects the Congress’ growing concern that China and other competitors are outpacing the United States in terms of research spending.” It also  endorses the Senate’s call to build 3 new oceanographic research vessels.
  • The Department of Energy’s Office of Science would receive $6.26 billion, an $868 million increase. That is roughly a 15% increase, rather than the 15% cut the White House proposed. Lawmakers also rejected Trump’s proposal to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects-Energy, and instead gave it a $47 million boost to $353 million.
  • A $457 million, 7.9% increase for NASA science programs, to $6.2 billion. The bill increases the agency’s planetary science program by some 21%, or $382 million, to $2.2 billion. NASA’s earth science programs remain flat at 2017 levels, but the bill rejects the proposed elimination of several earth science missions, and maintains funding for the troubled Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope. Overall, NASA gets $20.7 billion, $1.1 billion above 2017.
  • Spending at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would grow by $234 million, to $5.9 billion overall. Funding for climate research would remain flat, but the final bill rejects cuts proposed by Trump and the House.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology would get $1.2 billion, $247 million above 2017.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey gets $1.1 billion, $63 million above 2017. The bill preserves the agency’s climate science centers; the White House had proposed cutting their funding by half.
  • Research programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture would grow by $139 million, to $3.03 billion.
  • The budget of the Environmental Protection Agency remains flat at $8.1 billion as lawmakers rejected deep proposed cuts.

Come back to ScienceInsider for more analysis of the 2018 budget.

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