House, Senate Committees Approve NSF, NASA, Commerce R&D Funding

Last week, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed their respective Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bills, which include funding for NASA and NSF, and Department of Commerce agencies NOAA and NIST. The House version passed by voice vote, while the Senate version (S. 1329) passed by a 21-9 vote. There was a roughly $5.5 billion difference in CJS spending in the parties’ adopted spending plans, and as a result, R&D funding in the House version is generally below the Senate version for most offices and accounts. As in other bills, this discrepancy is largely due to the fact that the Senate would roll spending back to pre-sequester levels in FY 2014, while the House would keep the sequestration cuts intact.

National Science Foundation (NSF). According to current AAAS estimates (PDF), NSF would receive $5.7 billion for R&D under the House version and $6.1 billion under the Senate version, compared to a budget request of $6.2 billion and FY 2013 sequester funding of $5.5 billion. While neither version would provide NSF funding equal to the request, the House version essentially provides an inflation adjustment from sequester spending plus a small additional amount. By contrast, the Senate version would leave NSF R&D at an all-time high.

NASA. According to current AAAS estimates (PDF), the House version would fund NASA R&D at $10.8 billion in FY 2014, while the Senate version would fund NASA R&D at $11.9 billion. The House version would represent modest gains above sequester levels but a shortfall from both FY 2012 pre-sequester spending and the request, while the Senate version would represent a substantial increase above sequester levels, and would surpass both FY 2012 and the request. The Space Technology and Exploration missions would tend to fare relatively better under both accounts – albeit with very different topline funding figures – while the Science missions would remain essentially flat at sequester levels in the House and return to pre-sequester levels in the Senate. Notably, both chambers would restore proposed cuts to the Planetary Science program. The Aeronautics mission would effectively return to pre-sequester funding levels under both bills.

Department of Commerce. Commerce houses two R&D agencies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The same patterns for other agencies held steady here, with the House generally coming in below the Senate (PDF). One relative surprise was a moderate increase for NIST R&D above sequester levels in the House, though the committee declined to fund an Administration proposal for an industry-led manufacturing technology consortia program. The Senate provided the requested amount plus additional funding for this program.

Given the wildly different approaches to appropriations this year, it's not clear if or how some of these differences will be rectified in conference. Both bills await floor action in their respective chambers.

Tables: Congressional Action on CJS R&D
NSF | NASA | Commerce (NOAA and NIST)
Read more:
NSF in the FY14 Request
NASA in the FY14 Request | Astronomy and Astrophysics in the FY14 Request
NOAA and NIST in the FY14 Request