Negotiators pass bipartisan spending package

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February 15, 2019

On February 14, Congress passed legislation containing the final fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending agreements for certain federal science agencies that had been caught up in the record-breaking 35-day partial government shutdown spanning from the end of December 2018 through most of January 2019.

The legislation includes seven of the twelve annual appropriations bills: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

Some science-supporting agencies were not as strongly impacted by the recent shutdown because they had already received their final appropriations for the current fiscal year. Those agencies included the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The spending bill enacted this month provides relatively flat-level funding or slight budget increases for some science agencies and programs in FY 2019, compared to last year’s enacted budget levels. For instance, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) both received 4 percent increases to their total budgets in FY 2019. The bill provides NASA’s Science Mission Directorate with an 11 percent increase, and a 24 percent increase for NASA’s Planetary Science Division above its already historically high level. NSF’s 4 percent increase is aimed primarily at supporting the agency’s main research and facility construction accounts.

The bill also includes a 1 percent increase for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Within USGS, the budget for Natural Hazards programs was reduced by 7 percent while that for Energy and Mineral Resources programs increased by 11 percent.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) received an 8 percent decrease in its FY 2019 budget. However, the bill includes $159 million for NOAA Climate Research, which is an increase of $1 million above the FY 2018 enacted level and $60.4 million above the president’s request.

A division-by-division summary of the bill from the House Appropriations Committee is available here.

Sources: American Institute of Physics; U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriations.