On September 30, the President signed the Omnibus Appropriations bill which provided funding for those agencies not already covered by a signed appropriations bill. The omnibus package was attached to the Defense Appropriations bill conference report (H. Rept. 104-863). The bill also included a package of supplemental funding and general reductions. The chart on page three shows final FY 1997 funding for the major science and technology departments and agencies.
On August 6, the President signed the Agriculture appropriations bill. In FY 1997, the Agricultural Research Service budget will increase 6.2 percent to $785.9 million, significantly higher than either the 3.0 or 5.5 percent increase recommended in the House and Senate bills. The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service also fares better in the final bill than it did in the original bills, increasing 0.1 percent to $908.6 million. Forest Service research, which is funded in the Interior appropriations bill, increases 1.0 percent for FY 1997 to $179.8 million.
Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies
The Commerce appropriations bill was one of four S&T-related bills incorporated into the Omnibus Appropriations bill. Congress increased the final appropriation for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 7.9 percent to $588 million, including $225 million for the Advanced Technology Program (ATP). Although both the House and Senate bills originally included language restricting the use of these funds to grant continuations only, the omnibus bill specifically removes these limitations. Congress increased funding for the NIST laboratories by 3.5 percent to $268 million, but zeroed out funding for NIST construction.
Under the omnibus plan, funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Operations, Research, and Facilities (NOAA-ORF) activities increases 3.3 percent to almost $1.9 billion for FY 1997. While funding under most NOAA program areas increased, in fact in many instances Congress appropriated more than was requested, funding for the National Environmental, Satellite, Data, and Information Serve decreased 5.1 percent to $447.6 million. Much of the decrease is due to a revised funding level for the Polar Convergence Programs as agreed to by NOAA and the Department of Defense. Conferees expressed concern over the National Weather Service's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS). Testifying at a House Science Committee hearing in February (see Science & Technology in Congress, March 1996), NOAA agreed that it could work under a cost cap of $525 million. Appropriators "put NOAA on notice" that total funding for AWIPS will not exceed $525 million.
When the dust settled on the Omnibus Appropriations bill, funding for Department of Defense (DOD) Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E), was actually lower than the levels passed by either chamber. However, RDT&E will still increase 4.9 percent to $36.8 billion for FY 1997. Basic research (often referred to as the "6.1" category) will also suffer slightly from general reductions in the final bill, decreasing 5 percent to $1.1 billion. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization is the big winner in DOD, increasing 13.1 percent to almost $3.4 billion.
Energy and Water Development
Although both the House and Senate passed versions of the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill in July, the conference on the two bills was not completed until mid-September, and the President did not sign it until September 30. The Senate had $887 million more to work with than the House did, most of the difference going to Department of Energy (DOE) Atomic Energy Defense Activities. The House approved almost $10.9 billion for these activities, a 2.2 percent increase over last year, while the Senate approved just under $11.6 billion, an 8.7 percent increase. They compromised at $11.3 billion, a 6.4 percent increase over FY 1996.
Energy Supply R&D would decrease slightly to $2.7 billion, a 0.6 percent decline from FY 1996. Within Energy Supply R&D, University and Science Education received the largest cut, with conferees agreeing to zero out that account. Nuclear Energy absorbed the next largest cut, decreasing 7.6 percent to $116.1 million. General Science and Research fares relatively well, increasing 1.5 percent to almost $1 billion for FY 1997.
Interior and Related Agencies
The Interior appropriations bill, providing R&D funding for the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service (see Agriculture section), and parts of the Department of Energy (DOE), was also wrapped into the Omnibus Appropriations bill.
Department of the Interior- The bill provides $738.9 million for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), more than was recommended in either the House or Senate bill and up 2.1 percent over FY 1996. $16 million is to be used for inquiries into the economic conditions affecting mining and the minerals processing industry.
Department of Energy- The Interior bill provides funding for energy conservation activities at the Department of Energy (DOE). Under the omnibus plan, the DOE Fossil Energy account would decrease 12.5 percent to $364.7 million. DOE Energy Conservation activities would increase 6.1 percent to $569.8 million. The original House level was $523.4 million, and funding was added in conference for building technology, transportation research, and industry programs, among others.
Labor, Health and Human Services
The Omnibus Appropriations bill provides funding of $12.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of 6.8 percent over FY 1996. As outlined in the House-passed bill, conferees would give AIDS research funding directly to the individual institutes rather than coordinating such research through the Office of AIDS Research (OAR). However, OAR and the NIH director can to transfer up to 3 percent of an institute's funds to another institute for AIDS research. The bill also allocates $90 billion to begin construction of a new NIH Clinical Research Center.
The House passed the Transportation Appropriations bill, H.R. 3675, on June 28, and the Senate followed on July 31, but the Senate did not clear the final bill until September 17, and the President did not actually sign the bill until September 30. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding for Research, Engineering, and Development would have remained fairly steady under either House or the Senate bill, but instead will increase 12.2 percent to $208.4 million because of a last minute supplement for anti-terrorism aviation security research. The Next Generation High Speed Rail program at the Federal Railroad Administration will also receive a significant increase, up 29.2 percent to $24.8 million.
Veterans' Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies
The House passed the VA-HUD Appropriations bill, H.R. 3666, which funds the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), on June 26. The Senate approved its version of the bill on September 5, and it was signed by the President on September 26.
Environmental Protection Agency- The omnibus bill provided additional appropriations for EPA boosting EPA's FY 1997 funding 4.2 percent to $6.8 billion rather than remaining essentially steady as proposed under the original bills. The EPA Science and Technology account especially benefitted from the supplemental appropriations, with this account increasing a total of 12.9 percent to $587.0 million over FY 1997.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration- NASA seemed to buck the slight upward trend in S&T-oriented funding, decreasing 1.4 percent to $13.7 billion for FY 1997. This is $1 billion below the Administration request. Science, Aeronautics, and Technology (SAT) would be among the hardest hit by the cuts, down 2.7 percent to $5.8 billion. Within SAT, Mission to Planet Earth would increase by 7.0 percent to $1.4 billion. The bill also provides $1.8 billion for the Space Station, down 3.3 percent from FY 1996, but equal to the request.
National Science Foundation- The NSF budget would lose ground slightly to inflation, increasing 1.6 percent to almost $3.3 billion. Research and Related Activities (R&RA), however, would grow 5.1 percent to $2.4 billion. Conferees also agreed to the President's proposal to zero out funding for the Academic Research Infrastructure program and transferred $50 million in instrumentation funds to R&RA. Conferees deleted a House provision to shift money from Salaries and Expenses to R&RA.