Overview of Fiscal Year 2011 Appropriations

Choose an agency on the bar below to view AGI's analysis of the President's request for key geoscience-related agencies as well as detailed program and account information. Each of the appropriations pages provides a summary table, an overview of the budget request, and congressional action on the agency or department.


As in years past, AGI will provide testimony to several subcommittees on programs of importance to the geoscience community.

You can also keep up-to-date with the Library of Congress Table on Current Status of FY 2011 Appropriations Bills and the AAAS Analysis of R&D in the FY 2011 Budget. As in years past, the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Project website has information on trends in federal research and development funding, including information on the president's request, congressional budget resolution, 302(b) allocations, and each science-related appropriations bill.

Appropriations Update 04/11

Congress Passes Budget for Fiscal Year 2011
After many months of contentious debates and seven continuing resolutions, Congress passed a budget for fiscal year 2011 with about six months left in the year (H.R. 1473). The President signed the legislation into law (Public Law 112-10). The budget will cut about $61 billion from the overall federal budget. Among the science agencies, there are significant cuts to their overall budgets and targeted cuts for work related to climate change. An AGU Policy Alert summarizes the cuts in tabular form for geoscience-related agencies. The overall cuts include National Science Foundation (-$66 million), U.S. Geological Survey (-$26 million), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (-$224 million), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (-$253 million), Energy Department’s Office of Science (-$20 million) and the Environmental Protection Agency (-$1.5 billion). The agencies are still working out specific cuts to specific programs, so some details are not known.

Some of the known impacts include a reduction in research grants from the NSF, delays or terminations of satellite missions with concomitant data loss or data gaps at NASA and NOAA, and reductions in research programs within the Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) R&D Budget and Policy Program has a summary of the FY2011 research budgets within all federal agencies.

Appropriations Update 12/10

Presidential Commission Fiscal Plan Fails
President Obama established a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and on December 1, 2010, the commission released a report, The Moment of Truth, which provides a plan to reduce the federal deficit. The plan includes cuts in discretionary spending, tax changes and cuts to mandatory programs, such as social security, Medicaid and medicare. The plan was criticized by many and failed to get enough commission member support to force a vote on the plan in the Senate. Although Congress does not have to consider the plan, it does provide one blueprint from the Administration for fiscal reform and some parts of the plan may be implemented in the future.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provides an analysis of how the plan might affect research and development. The plan calls for caps and cuts to discretionary spending that would affect funds for research, however, the plan specifically requests support for “high-value research”.

Continuing Resolution Holds 2011 Budget at 2010 Levels
Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 3082) and the President signed the measure into law on December 21, 2010. The measure keeps the federal government operating at 2010 funding levels until March 4, 2011. Discretionary spending would be about $1.16 billion more than 2010 levels, with most of the increase for the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Nuclear Security Administration (related to the implementation of the ratified START Treaty). The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (formerly the Minerals Management Service) will receive an additional $23 million for increased oil rig inspections in the Gulf of Mexico, but the increase is offset by a rescission of unobligated balances. Federal civilian employee salaries will be frozen for two years under the continuing resolution.

The 112th Congress will need to consider the FY 2011 budget as soon as the new session begins on January 5 and will need to balance their considerations with appropriations for FY 2012. Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has suggested that discretionary spending for FY2011 be cut by about $100 billion to FY 2008 levels, however, many legislators have publicly stated that such cuts are unlikely to gain passage.

The Senate had initiated FY 2011 omnibus appropriations with a target of $1.108 trillion for total spending as proposed by the McCain-McCaskill cap amendment. This level was $29 billion below the President's FY 2011 budget request. Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies would have received about $58 billion ($6.4 billion less than FY 2010), Energy and Water Development would have received $34.5 billion ($1.05 billion less than FY 2010) and Interior, Environment and Related Agencies would have reeceived $32.2 billion (equal to FY 2010). The omnibus negotiations template may serve as a blueprint for any potential omnibus for FY 2011 appropriations in the 112th Congress. A full year continuing resolution for FY 2011 is also a strong possibility.

Appropriations Update 7/10

Update on Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 9 out of 12 appropriation bills before the August recess, including most of the science agencies. The committee did not complete Defense, Legislative Branch or Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, leaving the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency without appropriation details. The nine measures await a calendar date on the Senate floor for voting by the full chamber before these measures may be reconciled with House appropriations.

The energy appropriations measure (S.3635) would provide $5.012 billion for the Office of Science where most basic research by the agency is conducted, $2.288 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and $200 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy – all within the Department of Energy. The Senate committee supports slightly more spending for these programs than the House and both are about $1 billion less than the President’s request.

The science appropriations measure (S.3636) would provide about $5.5 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), $5.006 billion for science within NASA and $7.353 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). All of these sums represent healthy increases for these programs and are similar to the President’s request and House levels, with the exception of less funding for education at NSF in the Senate appropriations.

U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Full Committee Markup on Subcommittee Spending Guidance and Agriculture Appropriations
The Senate Appropriations Committee acted Thursday to advance President Obama's budget by approving subcommittee spending guidance for fiscal year 2011 (FY2011) as well as appropriations bills for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Homeland Security; and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Related Agencies. It was the first full Committee mark-up of the session, as well as the first committee meeting held in 50 years without the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). 

The approved top line spending levels for each appropriation bill, called 302(b) allocations, would cut $14 billion from President Obama’s proposed budget for FY2011. Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) originally pushed for $8 billion in cuts, but with pressure from committee Republicans he agreed to cut another $6 billion from the Defense Department’s budget. It is rare for the Chairman to offer subcommittee discretionary spending levels below those approved by the Budget Committee, but the chairman cited the “severe economic difficulties facing the nation” as the reason for the cuts.

Voting on the $1,114.3 billion subcommittee spending guidance followed strict party lines, with the Committee’s 12 Republicans opposing and its 17 Democrats voting in favor on each of the day’s four votes. The unusual display of partisanship on the normally cohesive Committee came amid Republican calls for increased cuts in spending and the majority Democrats holding firm. “I don’t want to see [a] rift on the Committee,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), “I want to work with the other side.” Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R- MS) added that while “we generally have a different view in the two parties about how much we should be spending… this need not fracture the bi-partisan nature of this Committee.”

In the subcommittee spending guidance, the subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies was allocated $60.1 billion, $4.7 billion less than last year’s Senate bill and $400 million less than the president’s request for FY2011. The Agriculture subcommittee was allocated $22.8 billion, $30 million below Obama’s request and about $300 million less than FY2010. The Committee on Energy and Water Development was allocated $34.97 billion, $330 million below Obama’s request and about $130 million more than FY2010. The Committee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies was allocated $32.3 billion about $100 million more than the FY2010 allotment

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies were allocated $141.1 billion and $43.8 billion was allocated to Homeland Security. Homeland Security, which  includes allocations for the Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Science and Technology (for homeland security research and development), Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and more. The Committee allocated $169.6 billion to Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

Within the Agriculture appropriations bill, there were increases in nutrition, farm support, and international food assistance and some decreases in research. The committee press release stated “The bill includes $2.818 billion for USDA research agencies.  This is a decrease of $20 million below the fiscal year 2010 enacted level, and $24 million above the President's request.   The primary agricultural research agencies, the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) receive $1.251 billion and $1.310 billion respectively.  Within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative receives an increase of nearly $48 million.”

More information on the markup itself and the appropriation bills passed can be found here. Audio of the markup can be found archived here.

Appropriations Update 6/10

Update on Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011
Congress has made little progress on twelve appropriation bills for the fiscal year 2011 budget and is  not likely to complete the appropriations process before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, 2010. It appears more and more likely that there will be a continuing resolution to keep the federal government running on last year’s budget beyond the November elections. Congress may try to complete the 2011 budget in late November to early December.

In a flurry of activity on the last four days before the July 4th congressional recess, five House appropriation subcommittees convened to mark-up their appropriation bills. Bills were approved out of the subcommittees for the Legislative Branch, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, State and Foreign Operations, Agriculture and Commerce, Justice and Science.

For science agencies, the House subcommittee approved a budget of $7.424 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) for fiscal year 2011. This is the same as the president’s request, however, the subcommittee moved some funding from the research account to the education account. For the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the subcommittee approved a budget of $19 billion. This is the same as the president’s request, however, the subcommittee reduced the budget for the Science programs by $300 million, so Science programs would receive $4.7 billion. For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the subcommittee approved a budget of $5.543 billion, which is essentially the same as the president’s request.

The subcommittee-approved budgets for these science agencies would mean healthy increases compared to fiscal year 2010, however, these budgets still need to be approved by the full committee, the House and the Senate.

More information about the House Committee on Appropriations work on the fiscal year 2011 budget is available at the committee website.

Appropriations Update 5/10

Senate Approves Supplemental Funding
Just before leaving for a weeklong Memorial Day break, the Senate passed a $58.8 billion war supplemental spending bill (H.R. 4899) that is more conservative than an $84 billion House version. While the bulk of the measures are for defense spending related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Senate bill provides $68 million for the federal response to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The amount for the oil spill is much less than the House request of $275 million, however, the House postponed additional work on their version of the war supplemental bill until after the Memorial Day recess. The chambers will conference on their bills and send a final version to the President that includes spending for science, assessment and further relief for multiple disasters, including the oil spill.

The Senate bill would provide $29 million for the Department of the Interior (DOI) to increase inspections and enforcements related to offshore drilling operations in the Gulf, $5 million for economic development assistance programs, $2 million to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the environmental impacts of the spill, $10 million for the Justice Department to fund legal expenses, $2 million to the Food and Drug Administration for food safety related to the oil spill, $7 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for scientific studies of the oil spill, a $13 million contingency fund through NOAA to help fishermen and fishing businesses affected by the spill and $1 million for a National Academy of Sciences study of the impacts of the oil spill.

Of the $29 million for DOI, $20 million is likely for inspections and oversight of offshore drilling, $7 million for science and $2 million for other activities. Interior has already spent $8 million (as of May 27) and only about $4 million of that is refundable through the Oil Spill Pollution Act. The measure would also allow advances of as much as $100 million from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response.

Separate from the war and oil spill provisions, the Senate measure would provide $18.6 million to repair Mississippi River Corps of Engineers projects damaged by natural disasters, $173 million for various damaged navigational projects, $18.2 million for Department of Labor for mine safety, $18 million for forest restoration initiatives related to national disasters and several hundred million dollars for reimbursement and ongoing relief/response to the Haiti earthquake. Finally, while the Senate version is more conservative, it does include $5.1 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to address various natural disasters, which the House version does not contain.

Appropriations Update 4/10

Senate Committee Passes Budget Resolution
On April 22, the Senate Budget Committee passed a budget resolution (S.Con. Res. 60) that freezes spending for most domestic programs and does not include any climate change language. There had been rumors that the committee might include climate change legislation because the resolution is part of the filibuster-proof reconciliation process.

The bill authorizes $1.124 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal year 2011. The energy and natural resources functions would see small  increases in FY2011 followed by flat to slightly decreasing spending for future years, while transportation would see some reductions. Defense would be the only function to see increases in spending over multiple years. Other requests in the resolution of interest to the geosciences community include an additional $500 million for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, state energy efficiency programs and development of low carbon technologies; $475 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; $3.5 billion for EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds; and increases for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellites.

There is great uncertainty about whether the Senate will pass this resolution and the House appears to be waiting to see what the Senate does before acting in their chamber. Recently, these nonbinding budget resolutions have failed to pass in election years and there is little optimism for passage this year. Nonetheless, the measure signifies some of the priorities of policymakers in dealing with concerns about the federal budget.

Appropriations Update 3/10

Congress Wrestles With Appropriations
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Subcommittees are holding hearings on the President’s budget requests for fiscal year 2011 and legislators’ concerns and issues about appropriations. So far the most controversial issues regarding science-related requests are the termination of NASA’s Constellation program, which was supposed to develop America’s next generation human spaceflight capabilities; the termination of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository; the formation of a variety of new energy research centers at the Department of Energy, the re-organization of NPOESS into the Joint Polar Satellite System mission and the formation of a Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The American Geological Institute is covering as many of the geoscience-related appropriations hearings as possible and summaries of these hearings as well as tables and summaries of the President’s budget requests are available online at AGI’s Overview of Fiscal Year 2011 Appropriations. Just click on your favorite agency or department on the webpage to see the tables and summaries.

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For FY10 updates, visit the Overview of Fiscal Year 2010 Geoscience Appropriations.

Sources: CQ.com, Congressional Budget Office, House Budget Committee, THOMAS (Library of Congress)

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The Budget Process

Below is a diagram of the congressional budget process that first appeared in Following the Budget Process that was published in the March 1996 issue of Geotimes. It is adapted from a diagram developed by the House Budget Committee. Click on the image to open a PDF version.


Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Physics, E&ENews Publications, House Committee on Appropriations, Library of Congress, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Washington Post, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Staff.

Last updated May 9, 2011