Policymakers negotiated and postured until the last possible minute last week before striking a deal on 8 April 2011 to fund the federal government through the balance of the current fiscal year, which ends on 30 September 2011.  After weeks of contentious negotiations, congressional leadership agreed to a plan that will cut nearly $40 billion in spending over the next five and a half months relative to the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget.  The cuts are roughly equally divided between mandatory and discretionary programs.  About $12 billion of the cuts have already been enacted in recent months.  In order to keep the federal government open until the package can be signed into law, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution late Friday night to fund the government through 14 April.

The spending deal targets the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services for a $13 billion reduction, with foreign affairs programs losing about $8 billion.  Discretionary programs, including science agencies, would collectively lose $1.1 billion through across-the-board cuts.  The Department of Defense is expected to receive an increase, but not as large as Republicans had sought.

Democrats were able to prevent $1.2 billion in reductions to federal employee bonuses and pay beyond the salary freeze previously endorsed by the White House.  Some programs were spared cuts, including the National Institutes of Health, Head Start, and Pell grants for college students.

Several of the controversial policy riders that House Republicans had pushed were stripped from the final package in exchange for larger spending reductions.  The deal does not include any limits on the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or mountaintop mining.  Additionally, Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and the implementation of the 2010 health care reform law were unsuccessful.  Instead, the compromise includes a guarantee by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that these provisions will be voted upon by the Senate later this week.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the package on Wednesday, with Senate action on Thursday.

Impacts to National Science Foundation (NSF)

According to the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), the final plan cuts funding for NSF by $65.75 million, or 1 percent below the FY 2010 budget.  Research and Related Activities would lose $53.1 million (-0.8 percent).  The Education and Human Resources budget account would be trimmed by $11.8 million (-1.1 percent).  Although the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account will only lose $230,000 relative to FY 2010, the CR could impact NSF’s ability to continue funding construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network.

Cuts to Research and Related Activities will result in:

  • 134 fewer awards and the support of 1,500 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel than last year.
  • Compared to the FY 2011 request, the CR will fund 1,450 fewer awards and support 16,700 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel.

Cuts to Education and Human Resources will result in:

  • 16 fewer awards and the support of 300 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel than last year.
  • Compared to the FY 2011 request, the CR will fund 50 fewer awards and support 930 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel.