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Congress Moves Forward On 2011 Budget

Government: Agreement on spending cuts averts a shutdown but will halt expansion plans for several science agencies

by Susan R. Morrissey
April 13, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 16

Credit: U.S. House of Representatives
Credit: U.S. House of Representatives

Congress this week worked to hammer out a final 2011 federal budget based on an eleventh-hour agreement between congressional leaders and President Barack Obama that averted a government shutdown. If passed, the budget will cut spending from fiscal 2010 levels by $37.7 billion, including reductions for many science agencies.

The budget deal halts the Administration's plans to double funding for three key science agencies over a 10-year period that ends in 2017. The National Science Foundation's fiscal 2011 funding will be $53 million less than fiscal 2010 level, leaving the agency with a budget of $6.9 billion; NIST will get $109 million less than it did in 2010, or a fiscal 2011 budget of $748 million; and 2010 funding level for the Department of Energy's Office of Science will be reduced by $35 million, leaving a fiscal 2011 budget of $4.9 billion. Government sources say the cuts will be especially painful because they must be taken from funds that remain for the fiscal year, which ends in October.

With an overall budget agreement in place, the action shifted back to the House of Representatives for members to draft a specific 2011 budget bill. "My committee went line by line through agency budgets this weekend to negotiate and craft deep but responsible reductions in virtually all areas of government," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold D. (Hal) Rogers (R-Ky.) said in a statement. "Our bill targets wasteful and duplicative spending, makes strides to rein in out-of-control federal bureaucracies, and will help bring our nation one step closer to eliminating our job-crushing level of debt."

About half of the spending cuts identified by the House Appropriations Committee will come from the nondefense portion of the budget, which includes funding for all science-related agencies not under the umbrella of the Pentagon. The committee's bill calls for an across-the-board 0.2% cut for all nondefense programs, as well as specific cuts within agencies.

For example, the spending bill would cut $126 million from the $1.4 billion 2010 budget of the Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food & Agriculture. It would cut in half the 2010 budget for the National Institutes of Health's building and facilities effort, leaving it with just $50 million for 2011. And the measure would bar funding for the establishment of a Climate Service at the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration.

As C&EN went to press, both the House of Representatives and the Senate were expected to pass a final 2011 budget and send it to President Obama for his signature. Congress next turns to the fiscal 2012 federal budget, which is due by the end of September and is expected to be even more contentious.



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