On 13 February 2012, President Obama released his official budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2013. According to the White House, the spending plan would cut the nation’s deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade and would avoid the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts mandated by the debt limit deal reached last August. The deficit reductions would be achieved by increased revenues, including higher taxes on families earning more than $250,000, and spending cuts.

“I am proposing a 5-year freeze on all discretionary spending outside of security,” wrote President Obama in his message that accompanied the spending plan. “This is not an across-the-board cut, but rather an overall freeze with investments in areas critical for long-term economic growth and job creation. A commonsense approach where we cut what doesn’t work and invest in those things that make America stronger and our people more prosperous. Over a decade, this freeze will save more than $400 billion, cut non-security funding to the lowest share of the economy since at least 1962, and put the discretionary budget on a sustainable trajectory.”

Preliminary analysis suggests that science agencies fair reasonably well as compared to some other program areas. Overall, the President has proposed $140.8 billion for research and development (R&D) spending. Non-defense R&D would increase by about 5 percent from the 2012 level. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.4 billion, a $340 million increase above the FY 2012 enacted level. The Administration’s funding priorities include cross-cutting research in advanced manufacturing, clean energy, wireless communications, and science and mathematics education. “[L]ower priority education and research programs that lack evidence of impact or do not align well with NSF’s core mission responsibilities” would be eliminated, according to budget documents. Details on how the $66 million in savings are achieved are not yet available. NSF’s Research and Related Activities account would receive nearly $6 billion, a funding increase of roughly 5 percent above FY 2012 enacted. The Biological Sciences Directorate, which is funded from this account, could see an increase of $22 million (+3.1 percent). Education and Human Resources would increase by $47 million, whereas the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would be flat.

The following provides a quick first look at the top line numbers for some other key federal science agencies.

  • Environmental Protection Agency: $8.3 billion (-$104.9 million); Science and Technology would receive $807.3 million (+$13.5 million)
  • United States Geological Survey: $1.1 billion (+$34.5 million); the Ecosystems activity would receive $177.9 million (+$16.6 million)
  • National Institutes of Health: $30.7 billion, which is essentially unchanged from FY 2012
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.2 billion (+$160 million)
  • United States Department of Agriculture: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would receive $325 million (+$60.5 million); the Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.1 billion (-$7.9 million)
  • Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.0 billion (+$118.4 million); Biological and Environmental Research would receive $625.3 million (+$15.8 million)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $17.7 billion (-$58.6 million)

More detailed analysis of the President’s budget request will be provided by AIBS in the coming days.