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Science Funding Problems Ahead

gavelFiscal year (FY) 2013 began on October 1, and many decisions regarding spending over the next year are still unresolved. Because Congress did not pass any of the FY 2013 spending bills before the start of the fiscal year, Congress approved and President Obama signed a six-month continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through March 2013, when a budget for the remainder of the year must be finalized. The interim bill provides a 0.6 percent increase over FY 2012 funding levels for all federal agencies.  The bill also includes a provision to ensure that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Joint Polar Satellite System, a key climate and weather satellite, is not further delayed during this time.

Meanwhile, federal agencies are awaiting possible cuts of approximately 9 percent that will occur January 2, 2013 if Congress and the Administration do not reach agreement on deficit reduction. Known as the “sequester,” these automatic, across-the-board reductions of $1.2 trillion from 2013-2021 were put into place by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 as an unappealing contingency in case Congress was unable to pass a sweeping deficit reduction plan. With no agreement in sight, and limited time after the election for Congress to devise a solution, agencies are bracing for a decline.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a nearly 400 page report outlining the impacts of sequestration. According to the report, defense programs would decline by 9.4%, while nondefense programs would decline by 8.2%.  Under this analysis, NSF would be cut by more than $500 million in the first year of the sequester.  AAAS has released a brief entitled Federal R&D and Sequestration in the First Five Years. This analysis, which provides estimates of cuts for agencies and states, finds that the sequester would cause USGS to lose $253 million in R&D funding over 5 years.

With support from GSA through the Task Force on American Innovation, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report on sequestration’s impacts on innovation. Eroding Our Foundation: Sequestration, R&D, Innovation and U.S. Economic Growth found that declines in R&D spending from sequestration will reduce GDP by “at least $203 billion and up to $860 billion over the nine-year period… and result in job losses of approximately 200,000”

GSA is continuing to work with policymakers to emphasize the importance of geoscience research and the effect these large cuts would have.  The Geo-Congressional Visits Day held in September focused on geoscientists conveying these points to their Members of Congress.

— Kasey White