Created by on 02/15/2011

On February 14th, President Barack Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget. The $3.7 trillion request would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion, cut or terminate 200 federal programs, and impose a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending. However, as he hinted in the State of the Union address last month, the Obama FY 2012 budget blueprint makes key investments in innovation, research, and education. Funding for the federal science agencies—including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Energy Office of Science (DoE SC), as well as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)—would increase according to the President’s spending plan. A budget overview and specific details and funding tables for each agency and program can be found in the departmental factsheets available on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) web site.

The following chart summarizes funding for the federal science programs:
Agency FY 2010 Actual * FY 2012 President's Budget FY 2012 FASEB Recommendation
NIH $30.94 billion $31.97 billion $35 billion 
NSF $6.93 billion $7.76 billion  $7.80 billion
DoE SC  $4.96 billion  $5.41 billion  $5.10 billion
AFRI  $262 million  $325 million  $500 million 
VA Med & Prosthetic Res  $581 million  $509 million  $621 million 

* Most government agencies are operating under a “continuing resolution” through March 4, 2011 (Public Law 111-317) that freezes funding at FY 2010 levels.

NIH funding would rise to $31.97 billion, an increase of $745 billion (2.4 percent) over the FY 2010 comparable level of $31.23 billion. The NIH summary notes that “FY 2012 funds will enable the nationwide biomedical research community to pursue a number of substantial opportunities for major scientific advances.” In addition, the budget documents note that NIH is proposing to establish a new National Center for Advancing Translational Research Sciences (NCATS) to “place the agency in a pivotal position to contribute to re-engineering the pipeline for diagnostics and therapeutics discovery and development.” At a briefing on February 14th for representatives from the biomedical research community, NIH Director Francis Collins said that the agency will submit a budget amendment in approximately one month that will provide specific details about funding for NCATS. As previously announced, NCATS will house the existing Molecular Libraries, Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases, NIH regulatory science partnerships with the Food and Drug Administration and the Rapid Access to Interventional Development programs.
The agency will fund a total of 9,158 research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2012, a decrease of 228 from the actual FY 2010 level. Support for competing RPGs will increase by $54 million (1.4 percent) over FY 2010. The agency will also constrain the average cost of competing and non-competing continuation RPG’s to up to a one percent increase. A four percent increase is proposed for training stipends in FY 2012 to support 16,831 full time training positions. Intramural research would increase $50 million above the FY 2010 level, maintaining the program at approximately 11 percent of NIH’s overall budget. Funding for the Office of the Director would grow by $122 million (of which $100 million is devoted to implement the Cures Acceleration Network created by the health care reform law). A $13 million increase is requested for the Common Fund. The FY 2012 budget for buildings and facilities would receive a $26 million (24.2 percent) increase over the FY 2012 enacted level. 
The National Science Foundation (NSF) fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget request reaffirms the Administration’s commitment to research and development, and is “designed to maintain the agency’s position as the nation’s engine of innovation in science, engineering, and science education,” according to NSF Director Dr. Subra Suresh. The President’s budget funds NSF at a FY 2012 level of $7.767 billion, an increase of $894.49 million (13 percent) over the FY 2010 enacted level. This would keep the NSF budget on the doubling path outlined in the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. In addition, the FY 2012 budget request includes an increase of 91.6 percent in the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account. A breakdown of funding for accounts within NSF is below:


Account FY 2012 Vs. FY 2010 Enacted % Increase
Research & Related Activities $6.253 billion +689.62 million 12.4%
Education & Human Resources $911.20 million +38.44 million 4.4%
Major Res. Eq. & Fac. Const. $224.68 million +107.39 million 91.6%
Agency Ops. & Award Man. $357.74 million +57.74 million 19.2%
National Science Board $4.84 million +0.30 million 6.6%
Office of Inspector General $15.00 million +1.00 million 7.1%

The NSF budget request lists the Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program and the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program as critical to the nation’s investment in the “building blocks of American innovation.” The GRF program would receive a budget increase of $62.22 million (45.8 percent) to $198.14 million in FY 2012. Funding for the CAREER program would rise to $221.96 million, a $25.57 million (13 percent) boost over current levels. Funding for the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program would be reduced to $62.47 million, representing a 9.8% cut.  

In an effort maximize the effectiveness of research funding, the President’s budget also proposes to eliminate or reduce support for education and research programs that have fulfilled their original goals, failed to show progress toward achieving their purpose, or no longer coincide with NSF’s core mission. The Administration stresses that ending low-priority pro­grams and making further improvements to administrative operations allows for increased funding of high priority areas of basic research, innovation, work­force development, and science education. 

The President’s budget expands investment in basic energy sciences, advanced scientific computing, and biological and environmental sciences by providing $5.416 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. The budget request represents an increase of $452.23 million (9.1 percent) above the FY 2010 level of $4.964 billion, keeping the agency’s budget on a doubling path. Emphasizing the need to establish the foundation for a clean energy economy, funding for the Office of Science includes $1.985 billion for the Basic Energy Sciences program to discover new ways to produce, store, and use energy. The Biological and Environmental Research program would receive $717.9 million in FY 2012, a 22.1 percent increase over FY 2010 levels. In addition, the President requests $550 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in order to continue support for promising early-stage research projects that could lead to groundbreaking clean energy technologies.
In an effort to improve operations and ensure the best use of its resources, the Department also proposes some reductions and terminations of programs. This includes a decision made by DOE in January to end operation of the Tevatron particle accelerator at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, saving the Department and estimated $35 million in FY 2012.  

The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget provides $325 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The AFRI budget request represents an increase of $63 million (24 percent) over the FY 2010 enacted level of $262 million. Included in this funding is support for the Graduate Fellowship Program and Institution Challenge Grants Program. AFRI will continue to address key societal challenges by funding targeted research in the areas of human nutrition and obesity reduction, food safety, sustainable bioenergy, global food security, and climate change. Specific funding details include $8.2 million in nutrition and obesity prevention research, $5.2 million for the NIFA Fellows program which directly supports graduate education in priority AFRI research areas, and an increase of $15.8 million in the foundational research program. The USDA budget request states that “the Department continues to move toward the use of competitive grants to generate the solutions to the Nation’s most critical problems.”   
The NIFA budget as a whole would receive $1.366 billion for FY 2012, a decrease of approximately $120 million over the current level. In addition to these budget specifics, the President highlighted his proposal to eliminate funding for all Congressional research grant earmarks (totaling $141 million), and also stated his commitment to work­ with Congress to reauthorize the 2008 Farm Bill.

The Medical and Prosthetics Research Program would drop to $509 million, $72 million (12.4 percent) below the FY 2010 level ($581 million). Although the budget narrative includes long descriptions of the priority research projects underway at the VA, no explanation is provided for why the less money is requested for the program in FY 2012. VA estimates that approximately 2,118 grants will be funded through the Medical and Prosthetics Research Program in FY 2012.