A First Look at the FY 2014 Omnibus

Under the newly unveiled appropriations package, many R&D agencies would recover the funding lost to sequestration, with some exceptions.

Jan. 15 update: Follow the below links for agency breakdowns. We'll update this list as new items are posted:
Full ReviewUSDA | Homeland Security | Energy | NIH | NSF | NASA | Defense

Congressional appropriators have released the 1,500-page omnibus spending package, dubbed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2014, to fund federal agencies for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year (for details and brief summaries, see the House Appropriations Committee; to read the mammoth bill itself and the associated conference report, visit the House Rules Committee). The bill contains $1.012 trillion in discretionary spending for FY 2014, representing a semi-rollback of the cuts under sequestration.

It's going to take some time to sift through the entire thing, but the below table presents a thumbnail sketch of how some of the major R&D-funding agencies and programs would make out. The numbers below show total discretionary funding levels, and are not restricted to R&D alone (though some, like NIH or the Office of Science within the Department of Energy, are almost entirely R&D funding). These are also preliminary pending a deeper review. Lastly, the below table doesn't adjust for inflation, which is about 4 percent between FY 2012 and FY 2014, and will eat up some of the apparent funding boosts.


More in-depth analyses will follow, but some initial takeaways:

  • As we wrote previously, the recent budget deal rolls back half of the overall cuts required under sequestration in FY 2014. At first glance, it looks as though a great many R&D agencies are ahead of this curve: even providing for potential errors in the numbers above, all appear set to recover well more than half of the funding cut by sequestration, and in fact will end up above FY 2012 funding levels (albeit only slightly in some cases).

  • The National Institutes of Health budget will only recover somewhat more than half the lost funding under sequestration. In constant dollars, the NIH budget has come down by around 15 percent since FY 2004, and it looks like the agency's budget will continue to stagnate. One note about NIH: the numbers above might look higher than those reported elsewhere. That's because the above figures include the annual funding transfer NIH receives in the Interior appropriations bill for the Superfund Research Program, which sometimes gets overlooked. That figure amounts to $77.3 million this year, on top of other appropriated funds.

  • Overall R&D at the Department of Defense will likely end up a good bit below FY 2012 levels, but that's due mostly to reductions in downstream weapons and technology development, a trend that's been ongoing in recent years. Basic and applied research and early-stage technology development (listed above as "6.1 to 6.3," per the DOD nomenclature) would all fully recover above FY 2012 funding. These accounts include the bulk of R&D at DARPA and science activities in the military departments. Also notable is the major increase for DOD's medical research program, which includes funding for peer-reviewed research on cancer and other areas, and has long been defended by Congress from Administration cuts. This increase for biomedical research may help offset the continuing stagnation at NIH, to a small extent.

  • Low-carbon energy was one area targeted for major cuts by the House, but it looks like those cuts were averted, as the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and ARPA-E both make out well. 

  • Environmental research was another area targeted by the House, and here it looks like the House will somewhat get its way. Both the U.S. Geological Survey and EPA are in a similar boat as NIH, receiving only a partial recovery of sequester cuts.

  • At NASA, the biggest increases are reserved for the Exploration Systems account, which includes funding for the Orion vehicle and associated efforts to develop next-generation spaceflight capability.

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate have all received varying funding boosts in recent years, even in light of sequestration, and those recent trends look set to continue. However, the Administration also requested an additional billion dollars in mandatory R&D funding for an advanced manufacturing network administered by NIST, which Congress appears unlikely to take up.

Under the last continuing resolution, government funding only extends until Wednesday, January 15, after which another shutdown would take place. At the time of this writing, Congress appears set to pass another continuing resolution that would keep government open through January 18, providing an extra few days to then grapple with the FY 2014 omnibus package.