Skip to main content

Additional Details on S&T Funding in the Omnibus

Last week we posted an overall summary of science and technology funding levels in the FY 2015 omnibus, including a total R&D estimate of $137.6 billion, before the bill had been approved by either chamber. Now that it's been signed by the President, after passing the House last Thursday and the Senate over the weekend, here's some additional detail on the major R&D agencies. All R&D figures are current AAAS estimates.



Tables: Total R&D | R&D by Military Branch | Basic Research | S&T by Military Branch
The Big Picture: DOD base R&D will rise to $66.7 billion in FY 2015, a 1.3 percent increase, and total science and technology within the broader R&D budget will rise to $14.1 billion. Total Army R&D was cut, while Navy R&D grew by over $1 billion, and the Air Force held steady.

What Gained: The basic research and advanced technology accounts both were increased by at least 5 percent from FY 2014 levels in the omnibus, and both ended up far higher than the Pentagon had requested. Basic research will increase by $112 million. Across the services, the Defense Research Sciences programs and joint university research initiatives both gained ground; the latter received a collective 12.3 percent increase from FY 2014. A great many advanced technology programs across fields were boosted, including medical tech, aviation and aerospace, high-performance computing, manufacturing, and materials science, among others.

The omnibus also established a STEM pilot program by the U.S. Army, for under-served elementary and secondary student populations; and a technology-transfer pilot program involving regional incubators.

Medical research through the Defense Health Program received an 11.5 percent boost from FY 2014. And $95 million was divided between DARPA and the Chemical and Biological Defense Program for Ebola research.

What Didn't: Overall, applied research funding will come down somewhat, by less than one percent, primarily due to cuts of Air Force and DARPA applied research programs.

What It Means: Basic research funding at DOD will reach at least a 30-year high, while overall science and technology funding will reach its highest point since FY 2010.


Table: Funding by Institute
The Big Picture:  NIH received $30.3 billion in total funding, just a 0.5 percentage point increase from FY 2014 levels. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) also received $238 million for Ebola-related research and clinical trials, and was directed to pursue an action plan with CDC and other federal partners on antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The final omnibus also adjusted the "evaluation tap" drain, which annually and quietly transfers millions of dollars out of the NIH budget each year for program evaluation elsewhere under the Public Health Service Act. NIH will now be a net recipient of these funds instead of a net contributor. Lawmakers also encouraged NIH to take disease burden into account when setting research priorities.

What Gained: The only individual institute to beat the rate of inflation (non-Ebola category) is the National Institute on Aging, which received a 2.4 percent increase for Alzheimer's research. A few other institutions matched or surpassed a one percent increase: the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for the BRAIN Initiative, and the Common Fund for pediatric research.

What Didn't: The rest of NIH. The President's budget was fairly unambitious, and the final appropriation fell shy of even that.

What It Means: NIH will continue its decade-long funding slide, with this year's research budget an estimated 12.7 percent below the FY 2004 peak.


Table: R&D and Discretionary Funding

The Big Picture: DOE R&D will rise to an estimated $11.7 billion in FY 2015, a 3.1 percent increase. This is driven by gains within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) more than anything else, as Office of Science funding was flat and energy technology program gains were modest and varied. The final omnibus was generally short of the request across most areas; fossil energy, nuclear R&D programs, fusion, and nonproliferation R&D are among the few that topped the request.

What Gained: Within the Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) received a major boost above FY 2014, in part for exascale computing. Construction funding for the Linac Coherent Light Source-II at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University, will both ramp up as scheduled. And within Fusion Energy Sciences, domestic funding will increase by 3.7 percent.

Outside Science, there were few large increases for energy technology programs in the omnibus. Some of the largest, in relative terms, were for wind, geothermal, and advanced manufacturing; among other things, the omnibus establishes four clean energy manufacturing institutes. Nuclear and fossil energy R&D gains above FY 2014 were modest. Certain R&D and construction programs with NNSA were increased to varying degrees.

What Didn't: Overall Office of Science funding was flat, with cuts slated for High-Energy Physics and Biological and Environmental Research. Lawmakers reduced American contributions to ITER, the international fusion reactor, by 25 percent (amounting to a $150 million total contribution for FY 2015), and made some of this funding contingent on managerial reform. ARPA-E funding is also flat, and several low-carbon energy technology programs were cut, including solar, biomass, and vehicle technologies.

What It Means: Congress continues to favor the department's defense activities over civilian research and development, which has receded somewhat in recent years. The one-time America COMPETES Act goal of doubling the Office of Science budget is becoming a memory.


Table: R&D and Discretionary Funding

The Big Picture: NASA dodged cuts proposed by the Administration, instead receiving $18 billion in total funding. This represents a 2.1 percent increase above FY 2014 levels, but a 3.1 percent or $549 million increase above the request. Many big programs followed this trend, including the Science directorate and spacecraft development.

What Gained: Almost every program, to varying degrees. The largest year-over-year increases were slated for joint commercial spaceflight activities and the Aeronautics research, both at or above 15 percent. Other large relative increases include boosts for Planetary Science, Space Launch System development, Space Technology, and Astrophysics. Almost all of these programs had been slated for cuts by the Administration. Funding for development of the Orion capsule, which recently had its first successful test flight, will remain flat at FY 2014 levels, but substantially higher than the President had requested.

What Didn't: Funding is coming down for Earth Science and the James Webb Space Telescope (both as requested), while funding gains for Heliophysics and the International Space Station were more modest.

What It Means: The NASA budget remains over $1 billion below its average funding during the second Bush Administration (and over $3 billion below where it was in the first Bush Administration), could have gone even lower?


Table: R&D and Discretionary Funding

The Big Picture: NSF received $7.3 billion, a 2.4 percent increase above FY 2014 levels and 1.2 percent above the request.

What Gained: The Research and Related Activities account, which is the bulk of NSF funding and the core of agency researched, will gain $125 million in FY 2014, after the Administration had proposed a small cut. Lawmakers embraced neuroscience activities in particular (other language provided in House and Senate appropriators' reports from the summer also remain in effect). Education activities were also boosted. Construction funding was fully provided for the agency's three ongoing projects: the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and the National Ecological Observatory Network

What Didn't: The geosciences and social sciences were excluded from funding increases in the House version. While this language was not repeated in the omnibus, it also wasn't explicitly refuted. The funding implications are to be determined.

What It Means: Like other civilian science agencies, the NSF budget has mostly bounced back from sequestration, but not entirely. And as with the Office of Science and NIST, doubling the NSF budget is a fading target.


At the U.S. Department of Agriculture (see table), funding increases for intramural and extramural research were generally modest. As mentioned previously on this site, USDA received partial funding for a new poultry research center, while the competitive Agriculture and Food Research Initiative received a 2.8 percent increase.

Funding for lab activities at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was increased slightly, but some of the agency's public-private manufacturing innovation activities were cut. Meanwhile, climate research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) dodged the cuts proposed in the House but opposed by the Senate (see Dept. of Commerce table).

Department of Transportation (DOT) R&D funding will come down by an estimated 5.4 percent below FY 2014 levels (see table). With the unsuccessful surface transportation reauthorization earlier this year, the Federal Highway Administration R&D will continue at prior levels rather than get the boost sought by the Administration. Appropriators reduced NextGen funding in accord with the request, and did not provide the requested increase for high-performance rail R&D.

The U.S. Geological Survey (see table) received a modest increase below inflation, with the Natural Hazards mission area getting the largest boost. Environmental Protection Agency R&D (see table) was cut by an estimated 4.3 percent, continuing the slow budgetary decline at EPA. 


Matt Hourihan


Related Scientific Disciplines