Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, March 17, 2022
Omnibus Spending Bill Signed into Law 

After months of waiting, bill text for the fiscal year (FY) 2022 $1.5 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act was released on March 9, along with a four-day continuing resolution to provide time for the president’s signature before being finalized. A separate COVID supplemental funding package that was supposed to ride with the omnibus was pulled from consideration at the last minute. According to a statement from House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), this omnibus is the “largest increase for non-defense discretionary funding in four years—it’s a 6.7 percent increase that will have a real impact in the lives of everyday Americans.” Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) released his statement on the omnibus, stating that the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies funding bill provides $213.6 billion, an increase of $15.3 billion—7.7 percent—above 2021.  

In the bill, National Institutes of Health (NIH) received $44.96 billion, which was lower than the advocacy community’s recommendation of $46.1 billion for FY 2022. However, it was $2 billion above the FY 2021 enacted level of $42.93 billion. This provides a 45 percent increase over the past seven years for NIH. As for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), $1 billion was appropriated through September 30, 2024. Congress gave President Biden the power to appoint in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) an ARPA-H director and to make awards for time-limited projects with quantifiable goals. In addition, the HHS Secretary may transfer to ARPA-H within 30 days of enactment the functions, personnel, and funds to any agency of HHS, including NIH. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) received the largest increase in 12 years. NSF is funded at $8.84  billion, $351 million or 4 percent above the FY 2021 level ($8.49 billion), which was lower than the $10 billion requested by the advocacy community. This amount includes $7.16 billion for NSF research and related activities, an increase of $250 million above the FY 2021 level. The bill establishes a new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) to help the country remain globally competitive in key technology areas but with no funding amounts. TIP would build upon and consolidate existing NSF programs. Congress also reminded NSF that good ideas for high-quality research were not bound to certain geographical areas.

NSF’s education and training programs to build tomorrow’s innovation workforce were funded at $1 billion, an increase of $34 million above the FY 2021 level. This includes a more than $14 million increase to NSF programs that advance equity in science and engineering. NSF’s funding level will support approximately 750 additional research and education grants and 8,900 more scientists, technicians, teachers, and students, compared to FY 2021.

According to the explanatory statement, the funding should be used to broaden participation in STEM programs where diverse ideas will be needed to support global leadership. NSF is encouraged to ensure it partners with communities with significant populations of underrepresented groups within STEM research and education as well as the STEM workforce. The bill also includes language allowing the transfer of up to $148 million for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

As for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, it received $7.48 billion (a $449 million increase over FY 2021), but less than the $7.7 billion FASEB recommended. Under the agreement, not less than $395 million is provided to biological systems science and not less than $410 million is allocated for earth and environmental systems science.

Another area FASEB supports is the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Research and Education Activities account. It received $1.05 billion, which was divided into various areas, including the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI received $445 million ($10 million above FY 2021 of $435 million, but still below the full re-authorization amount in the 2018 Farm Bill of $700 million). 

Lastly, the Veterans Affairs Medical and Prosthetic Research program received $882 million ($67 million above the FY 2021 enacted level of $815 million). This funding will support ongoing and new research in areas such as toxic exposures, traumatic brain injury, and precision oncology.

Congress continued to address the topic of animal research. In the omnibus bill text related to animal research, it states that appropriated funds cannot be used to conduct research using canines, felines, or nonhuman primates unless approved by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) and requires the VA to implement a plan to eliminate or reduce research using such subjects no later than five years after enactment of P.L. 116-94, which was December 20, 2019. 

In the explanatory statement accompanying NIH under “Alternatives to Animals in Research and Testing,” Congress directs NIH to submit a report on the programs to support the use of alternatives to animals in research and a plan for including the reduction, where possible, of the number of animals used in federally funded research. NIH must also outline a plan for collaborating with U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase the accuracy and transparency of the data collected on the number of animals used in research.