Skip to main content

Omnibus Bill Contains Boost for Several Science Agencies

The National Institutes of Health and NASA are among science-related agencies that fare well under the omnibus spending bill unveiled this week on Capitol Hill, according to an analysis by the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.

According to preliminary estimates by AAAS, the omnibus package would provide $148.6 billion in total R&D expenditures for the 2016 fiscal year, an 8.1 percent increase over 2015 levels and 1.5 percent more than the President’s request.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a big winner with a $2 billion boost. The National Institute on Aging is slated for $401 million in new spending to carry out research on Alzheimer’s disease. The budget agreement also provides the $200 million requested for the new Precision Medicine Initiative, an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. NIH also receives an additional $100 million to address antimicrobial resistance.

NASA would receive a boost of 7.1 percent, substantially more than proposed during the appropriations process and $756 million more than the President’s request. Both the Earth Science and Planetary Science divisions do better than in 2015. The account for human exploration of space receives a hefty 20.6 percent increase, allowing funding of the Orion crew vehicle and the Space Launch System at significantly higher levels than proposed in the President’s budget. But the launch system still would receive at least $300 million less than House and Senate appropriators had wanted.

Other agencies that fare well include the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration − the two major R&D agencies within the Department of Commerce. The NIST budget would increase by 11.6 percent; NOAA would be up 5.8 percent (compared to appropriations that would have dropped the agency below 2015 funding levels). Climate research within NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research still would be flat-funded, but it had been facing cuts in the House.

Department of Defense funding for basic research would total $2.3 billion, healthier than the large cuts proposed by the White House and embraced in the House, the AAAS analysis says. The budget for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) would be trimmed slightly, however.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the omnibus bill on Friday (Dec. 18). The White House has signaled that the President will sign the bill if Congress passes it.

In a separate statement, AAAS applauded the "high priority that Congress placed on reinvesting in our nation’s innovation system." The R&D increases in the omnibus bill "will help to support cutting-edge research across a broad range of disciplines and agencies, enable new discoveries, and support American innovators in fields ranging from aeronautics to zoology," the statement said. "It will provide much needed support to the scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians that generate the seed corn of American innovation and prosperity. As has been well documented, the United States has fallen behind other nations in the priority it places on R&D, recently ranking 10th among developed nations in R&D investment compared to the size of its economy. The bipartisan agreement recognizes the importance of R&D and is a strong step toward regaining America’s global leadership in innovation."

For more details on R&D spending in the bill and updates as warranted, go to the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program web site: