Every year, the President releases his budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, an action that by law is to take place on the first Monday in February. This year, however, with the fiscal chaos of raising the nation’s debt ceiling; the arrival of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts called sequestration; and the delay of a final fiscal 2013 budget, President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget request came on April 10—nearly 10 weeks late.
The 2014 budget request shows Obama’s plan is to rein in federal spending while investing in areas he believes are necessary for economic health and growth. Key among them is federal R&D, which the President has touted as being critical to U.S. economic prosperity. The proposed plan also replaces sequestration with a combination of new tax revenues and alternative spending cuts.
The President’s $3.8 trillion budget request would provide $142.8 billion for federal R&D, a 1.3% increase from 2012. The 2014 request uses fiscal 2012 as a baseline for comparison because that was the last full-year budget passed by Congress and signed into law by the President when the 2014 request was being developed.
The Administration does provide budget information for 2013—which is included in the tables that follow—but this information is a projection based on the stopgap budget put in place by Congress for the first six months of the fiscal year. The full-year 2013 budget was completed in late March, which, the Administration said, was too late to be reflected in its budget documents.
Of the total R&D budget, $68.1 billion would support basic and applied research—the R in R&D. This is a 7.5% increase from 2012. To offset some of this boost, the President would cut defense R&D, work done at the Departments of Defense and Energy, by 5.2%, putting total funding in this area at $73.2 billion in 2014.
The Administration R&D support continues to focus on several ongoing priorities. These include sustaining the growth of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards & Technology; supporting advanced manufacturing R&D; investing in clean energy technology; and preparing new innovators by ensuring effective science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.
The fiscal 2014 budget now goes to the House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committees, where each group will divide it into 13 appropriations bills. Hearings will be held on each bill by various committees, and legislation will emerge that sets the levels of spending for all federal departments and agencies. The numbers approved by Congress may be very different from those originally proposed by the Administration, but historically, R&D has not been radically changed. The whole process is supposed to be completed and the bills signed by the President by Sept. 30, the last day of fiscal 2013.
In addition, the President is proposing a few new initiatives. Among these is the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative to help understand the workings of the human brain. This multiyear initiative involves 2014 investments from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and NSF, as well as contributions from philanthropic groups.
The President’s request comes as Congress has begun its own work on the 2014 budget. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed nonbinding budget blueprints, which set the overall budget level as well as provide other funding direction. A conference committee is expected to begin working on ironing out differences between the two bills soon.
The following review of proposed R&D spending at the federal agencies comes with some other caveats. The numbers are given mostly as budget obligations—that is, money that agencies can spend during the fiscal year. They may not match the amounts that agencies actually spend during the year.
Also, the federal budget is a complicated document with various ways of adding up programs and totals. As a result, sometimes agency or department figures don’t agree with totals presented by the White House Office of Management & Budget.