Congressional leaders and the White House reached a bipartisan agreement last week to fund the federal government for the first six months of fiscal 2013. The deal avoids the threat of a federal government shutdown in the run-up to the fall elections.
The so-called continuing resolution will fund the federal government at fiscal 2012 budget levels from Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, through March 2013. It will be drafted during Congress’ August recess and will be voted on in September, according to House of Representatives Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). President Barack Obama has agreed to sign it.
For R&D programs, the agreement’s impact depends on what the Administration requested for 2013, says Matthew Hourihan, director of the R&D Budget & Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Many science programs’ budget requests were flat, so they won’t see much impact. But programs facing decreases or cancellation in the 2013 request will get a temporary reprieve. And new programs slated to start in 2013 will have to wait until Congress finalizes next year’s budget.
The agreement does not deal with the looming $109 billion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013. The cuts, or sequester, came about when a bipartisan congressional panel failed to cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade from the federal budget as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Details are still unclear, but sequestration is expected to mean at least an 8–10% budget cut to discretionary funding, which includes all R&D programs. Last week, the Office of Management & Budget took its first steps to plan for the possible cuts by instructing agencies to examine sequestration’s impact and to determine which programs might be exempt.
The budget deal should give Congress some breathing room to deal with the sequester, observers say.