FY 2011 National Science Foundation Appropriations

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" NSF serves as the funding source for about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. Key programs of interest to the Earth sciences are mainly within the Research and Related Activities, including the Geosciences Directorate, Climate Research, Climate Change Science Program, and Office of Polar Programs. Earth sciences are also covered in the Education and Human Resources Directorate, and research equipment funding. For more background information on NSF and programs within, visit the AGI Federal Agencies policy page.

For analysis of hearings held by Congress on NSF appropriations, click here.

FY11 NSF Appropriations Process


FY10 Current
ARRA (FY09-FY10)
House Action
Senate Action
National Science Foundation (total)
Research & Related Activities
Geosciences Directorate
Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences
Earth Sciences
Ocean Sciences
Integrative & Collaborative Education & Research
-- Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology
-- EarthScope operations
-- Academic Research Fleet
--National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center
--National Center for Atmospheric Research
-- Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP)
Climate Research**
Climate Change Science Program**
Office of Polar Programs***
Major Research Equipment & Facilities (MREFC)
--Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV)
--Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI)
Education & Human Resources
-- Math and Science Partnerships

*Neither House nor Senate appropriations bills concerning NSF were passed in the 111th Congress, and a continuing resolution has kept budgets at FY 2010 levels through March 2011.
** Program titles have been eliminated in the FY2011 budget request and climate change research will be conducted under a variety of other programs including the new Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability.
***Excludes $54 million transfer to the Coast Guard in FY10 for icebreaking services.

 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.

President's Request

National Science Foundation, A Wellspring of Innovation
The Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Arden Bement, presided over his last Presidential Budget Request on February 1, 2010 at NSF headquarters in Ballston Virginia. Bement will leave NSF in the summer for a new position at Purdue University and President Obama will have an opportunity to appoint the new director.

Bement called NSF “the nation’s wellspring of scientific innovation” and noted that the $7.4 billion budget request represents an 8 percent increase over fiscal year (FY) 2010 and keeps NSF on a doubling path for research and development.

Before discussing major initiatives for FY 2011, Bement summarized investments related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). NSF obligated $2.4 billion, about 80 percent of its $3 billion in one-time stimulus funding, in FY 2009. Research funds supported 4,599 awards and 6.762 investigators. An additional 76 awards were made in the Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program and the Math and Science Partnerships Program.

For FY 2011, Bement started with NSF’s National Innovation Strategy to educate the next generation with 21st century knowledge and skills. Four key programs for this strategy include the Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) Program ($158 million), Faculty Career Development Program ($209 million), Climate Change Education ($10 million) and Advanced Technological Education ($64 million).

In particular NSF is working to triple the number of graduate research fellowships to 3,000 by 2013 and thus GRF is slated for a 16 percent increase in FY 2011. The GRF in the Geosciences Directorate will increase from $1 million in FY 2010 to $2.74 million in FY 2011, far below the funds distributed to other directorates, which will average $6 to $8 million for FY2011, except for Computer and Information Sciences which will maintain about $2.5 million for GRFs within their directorate. The bulk of the funds will be distributed through the Education and Human Resources Directorate, which may have as much as $108 million for GRFs for FY 2011.

NSF will also focus on improving the participation of minorities and women in successful science and engineering careers through increases for established programs in education and training for minorities and women. Bement spoke of increasing partnerships between academia and industry through increases for programs such as Industrial Innovation, Partnerships in the Engineering Directorate and Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaisons with Industry, an NSF-wide initiative that could receive $19 million in FY 2011 and RE-ENERGYSE (REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge), a joint program with the Department of Energy to develop a future clean energy workforce.

Bement spoke at length about two major NSF-wide initiatives and the Geosciences Directorate will provide primary support for both in terms of expertise and funding. The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is requested to receive an increase of almost 16 percent for a total budget of $370 million in FY 2011. The Geosciences Directorate would contribute $225 million to this program, while Biological Sciences would contribute about $89 million and other directorates would contribute much less. The other NSF-wide initiative, which is brand new for FY 2011, is called Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainablity (SEES). Total funding for this interdisciplinary program is requested to be $766 million for FY 2011. The Geosciences Directorate would contribute about $231 million with other directorates contributing much less. As both initiatives require significant geoscience expertise, it will be important for the geoscience community to make significant contributions to both programs.

Tim Killeen, Assistant Director for the Geosciences held a break-out session on the directorate after Bement’s NSF-wide budget outlook. Killeen noted the healthy 7.4 percent increase for the Geosciences Directorate, an increase of $66 million, for a total budget request for FY 2011 of $955 million. The increase was similar to the 7.5 percent increase for Biological Sciences, more than the 4.3 percent increase for Math and Physical Science and less than the 11 percent increases for Engineering and Computer Sciences respectively.

Killeen noted that $601 million of the ARRA funds were invested in the Geosciences Directorate so far. ARRA funds supported the building of the Alaska Region Research Vessel, which will soon be ready for operation and has a new name, the Research Vessel Sikuliaq. There are no funds provided for the vessel in FY 2011 because it is being completed with ARRA funds.

Killeen reminded everyone that the FY 2010 Climate Research Investment solicitations are being released and the geoscience community should apply for funds through the five different subtopics. The Climate Research Investment program will be incorporated into the new NSF-wide initiative SEES, so the community should pay attention to the shifting program names. The Geosciences Directorate will support climate change research in coastal areas susceptible to sea level change and the Arctic in FY 2011, among other themes for SEES.

A new Geosciences Directorate initiative for FY 2011 will be Dynamic Earth, to improve understanding of Earth’s dynamic systems from geospace to the Earth’s interior. The funding request is for $28 million over two years.

Infrastructure investments for Geosciences will include operations and maintenance for the Ocean Observatories Initiative, construction of up to three regional class research vessels and the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Wyoming Supercomputer Center.

The Geosciences Directorate provided statistics on activities and showed that 11,173 people were supported in FY 2009, 5,792 were supported with ARRA funds and 12,300 people are estimated to receive support in FY 2010. The statistics for competitive awards showed that 44 percent were funded through FY 2009 and ARRA funds combined, while about 27 percent are estimated to be funded in FY 2010. In terms of research awards, about 39 percent were funded through FY 2009 and ARRA funds combined and about 24 percent are estimated to be funded in FY 2010.

Please see the table for more details on investments in Geosciences at the National Science Foundation for FY 2011.

For more information on the budget request for FY 2011 of the National Science Foundation please see their web page.

House Action


The House of Representatives considers funding for NOAA and NIST in the subcommitte for Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Mollohan (D-WV), other members include Representatives Kennedy (D-RI), Fattah (D-PA), Schiff (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), Ruppersberger (D-MD), Serrano (D-NY), Murphy (D-PA), Obey (D-WI) (ex officio), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Culberson (R-TX), Aderholt (R-AL), and Lewis (R-CA) (ex officio).

Senate Action


The Senate considers funding for NSF in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Mikulski (D-MD), other members include Senators Inouye (D-HI) (ex officio), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Ranking Member Shelby (R-AL), Gregg (R-NH), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Alexander (R-TN), Voinovich (R-OH) and Murkowski (R-AK).

Conference Committee Action


Appropriations Hearings



Sources: NSF Budget Information web site and Thomas

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

Prepared by Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Staff.

Last updated January 13, 2011