April 19, 2013

In This Issue


On April 10, the White House released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget proposal, which includes significant increases for scientific research. The proposal sets different priorities than the proposed budgets put forward by Congressional leaders, particularly those of the House majority.

The budget takes into account spending caps instituted through the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). However, it does not take into account implementation of sequestration and compares program funding levels to those of FY 2012, before sequestration was implemented. Obama’s budget proposes to nullify budget sequestration with $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction. This would include $580 billion in revenue through closing tax loopholes, $400 billion in healthcare savings, $200 billion in mandatory spending programs that would include agriculture and retirement contributions and $200 billion in discretionary savings. The remaining $430 billion would come from cost-of-living adjustments and reduced interest payments on the debt. Congress needs to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings to eliminate the existing sequester cuts.

In total, the White House FY 2014 budget request includes $142.8 billion for federal research and development (R&D), a 1.3 percent increase over FY 2012. In his official message on the budget, President Obama sought to tie science investment to economic development. “If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas,” he asserted. “That is why the budget maintains a world-class commitment to science and research, targeting resources to those areas most likely to contribute directly to the creation of transformational technologies that can create the businesses and jobs of the future.”

The president touted the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. “To further ensure our educational system is preparing students for careers in the 21st Century economy, the budget includes additional measures to promote STEM education, such as launching a new STEM Master Teacher Corps, to leverage the expertise of some of America’s best and brightest teachers in science and mathematics, and to elevate the teaching of these subjects nationwide.” said Obama

Overall, STEM education programs would be funded at $3.1 billion in FY 2014, a 6.7 percent increase over FY 2012. However, the administration’s reorganization effort includes a 50 percent reduction in the total amount of STEM education programs. The proposed budget reduces the number of federal STEM education programs from 226 to 112. Programs are redirected to be primarily under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Smithsonian Institution would also benefit from the reorganization, garnering $25 million to expand its non-classroom science education activities.

Other agencies, including the US Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, would have their STEM education programs undergo significant cuts under the president’s FY 2014 budget proposal. Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren has said that priority STEM education programs that reach out to women and underrepresented groups would be maintained.

The president’s budget would provide OSTP with $5.65 million for FY 2014, an increase from $4.5 million in FY 2012. In the president’s proposal, many federal agencies that invest in scientific research would garner large boosts, compared to what was enacted in FY 2012:

  • National Science Foundation: $7.6 billion (an 8.4 percent increase)
  • US Geological Survey: $1.2 billion (a 9 percent increase)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.4 billion (an 8 percent increase)
  • Department of Energy R&D: $12.7 billion (an 18 percent increase)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration R&D: $11.6 billion (a 2.6 percent increase)
  • US Global Change Research Program: $2.7 billion (a 6 percent increase)


NSF’s $7.6 billion request includes $760.58 million for biological research, a 6.8 percent increase over FY 2012. Within that amount $148.97 million would be dedicated to environmental biology (a 4.5 percent increase over FY 2012) and $126.46 million would fund biological infrastructure (a 5.9 percent increase over FY 2012). The agency reports that the number of undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctorate, researchers and other professionals involved in biological research was 17,439 in FY 2012 and is estimated to be 18,700 in FY 2014.

The proposed budget also includes $63 million for Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE), more than triple the $20.35 million enacted in FY 2012. The request includes $222.79 million for the Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program, a 65 percent increase over FY 2012. The FY 2014 budget request for the National Ecological Observatory Network is $98.2 million, an increase from $60.3 million enacted in FY 2012.


For FY 2014, NOAA would receive $5.4 billion, an 8 percent increase over FY 2012. A large portion of that funding is directed towards the agency’s satellites. NOAA R&D programs would receive $722 million, a 28 percent increase over FY 2012. The growth of funding for climate and weather satellites has drawn bipartisan concern from members of the House and Senate. The agency is currently working toward the development of the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System set to launch in 2017.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who also  chairs the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Subcommittee, stated that she intends to take several actions to address the growth of spending on NOAA satellites, including hosting a roundtable and possibly commissioning an independent review. Chairwoman Mikulski contends that increased funding for the satellites could eventually crowd out investment for other priorities.


DOE R&D would receive $12.7 billion for FY 2014, an 18 percent increase over FY 2012. For DOE’s Office of Science, the White House requests $5 billion, a 2.4 percent increase over FY 2012. For the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, the request includes $379 million, a 37.8 percent increase over FY 2012.

The budget proposal also includes $2.8 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This funding includes a 75 percent increase for development of advanced vehicles, a 42 percent increase for advanced biofuels and biofuel refineries and a 29 percent increase in clean and renewable energy projects.


USDA’s Agricultural Research Service discretionary spending would be funded at $1.3 billion under the president’s request, an increase from $1.095 billion in FY 2012. Within this amount $219 million is requested for environmental stewardship programs, an increase of $189 million enacted in FY 2012. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture would receive $1.293 billion in discretionary spending, an increase from $1.2 billion in FY 2012.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would receive $801 million in discretionary spending, down from $839 million in FY 2012. There has been concern from Members of Congress regarding this proposed reduction. During a recent budget hearing, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) specifically cited the $27 million reduction for APHIS’s efforts to mitigate pests of specialty crops and forests , asserting a reduction would hinders efforts to manage invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer.

The US Forest Service would receive $4.858 billion in discretionary spending for FY 2014, a decrease from $4.846 billion enacted in FY 2012. The Natural Resources Conservation Service would receive $813 million in discretionary spending, a decrease from $1.067 billion in FY 2012.

Additional information on the White House FY 2014 budget request is available here:

Information specific to the White House’s scientific research budget proposals is available here:

Information specific to the White House’s proposal for STEM programs is available here:


Under the White House’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014, the US Department of Interior would receive $11.7 billion in discretionary spending, a four percent increase over FY 2012. Research and development at DOI would be funded at $960 million in FY 2014, an 18 percent increase over FY 2012.

The budget proposal would fund the US Geological Survey at $1.2 billion in FY 2014, an increase of $98.8 million over the enacted level in FY 2012. This would include $71.7 million for agency climate science programs and $18.6 million to fund research on  environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing. Other research initiatives include a $1.5 million increase in funding White-nose Syndrome research, and a $5.4 million increase in invasive species research.

The FY 2014 USGS budget also includes $180.8 million understand ecosystem functions to better manage natural resources and address hazards that affect the natural environment (a $22.5 million increase over FY 2012). For climate change and land use programs, the budget request would provide $156 million, a $14.6 million increase over FY 2012.

Additionally, under the president’s budget request, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) would be funded at $900 million annually in mandatory spending funds. Traditionally, the program has relied on annual appropriations funding and royalties from offshore oil and gas production to fund its land management and conservation efforts. Mandatory annual LWCF spending would help provide stable funding for natural resource managers. The proposal is likely to be met with opposition from key House Republicans, including House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Chairman Rob Bishop (UT).

Additional funding for bureaus and programs under Interior’s jurisdiction include:

  • America’s Great Outdoors: $5.3 billion, a $179.8 million increase over FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs: $2.6 billion, a $31.3 million increase over FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Land Management: $1.2 billion, a $32.6 million increase over FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management:  $169.4 million, a $71.5 million increase over FY 2012. 
  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $222.1 million, a $24.8 million increase over FY 2012.
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.6 billion, a $76.4 million increase over FY 2012.
  • National Park Service: $2.6 billion, a $56.6 million increase over FY 2012.

The funding increases for Interior programs are paid for partly through increased fees on inspections for oil and gas drilling facilities, onshore oil and gas permits, surface mining and reclamation permits and administrative grazing. The proposed fee increases have already garnered opposition from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) who maintains they will stifle energy production and consequently lower federal revenue.

Additional information on DOI’s budget is available here:


The White House’s proposed budget would fund the Environmental Protection Agency at $8.2 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, a 3.5 percent ($296 million) cut from FY 2012.

This marks the fourth straight year the administration has proposed to lower overall funding for the agency. The administration’s budget would eliminate $54 million in funding for what it refers to as “outdated, underperforming, or duplicative EPA programs.”

Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds would receive $1.9 billion in FY 2014, a decrease of $472 million over FY 2012. The funds are geared toward water quality protection projects that treat wastewater and preserve groundwater and other potable water resources for communities across the United States. The administration states that it intends to target state revolving fund assistance towards smaller and underserved communities.

EPA’s research program would be funded at $554.1 million in FY 2014, a $13.4 million reduction from FY 2014. Specific agency research initiatives would see funding increases and decreases within this overall reduction. STAR Graduate Research Opportunity Fellowships would be reduced by $16.4 million, drinking water research would be reduced by $2.3 million and research on beaches would be reduced by $1.1 million. Hazardous chemical disposal research would be increased by $4.1 million, climate change research would be increased by $3.2 million, green infrastructure research would be increased by $1.8 million and biofuel production research would be increased by $1.3 million.

Another EPA initiative that would receive a funding increase is the agency’s  climate protection program. The program would receive $106.2 million in the president’s FY 2014 budget, an increase of $6.8 million over FY 2012. This would include a $2.4 million increase to the agency’s ENERGY STAR program and a $2.4 million increase for the greenhouse gas reporting program.

Programs that focus on several key US water bodies would also see funding increases under the president’s budget. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would receive $300 million in FY 2014, a $500,000 increase over FY 2012. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program would receive $73 million, a $15.7 million increase over FY 2012. Wetlands programs would receive $27.7 million, an increase of $6.5 million over FY 2012.

Additional information on EPA’s budget is available here:


This week, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held hearings to review the White House’s scientific research priorities in its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014.

During the morning of April 17, the committee heard from White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren on the administration’s proposed research initiatives, including one to consolidate and reorganize federal agency Science, Technology, Engineering  and Mathematics (STEM) education programs so that they are primarily implemented under the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF). That afternoon, the Research Subcommittee met with NSF Acting Director Cora Marrett and National Science Board Chairman Dan Arvizu to discuss NSF’s FY 2014 budget request.

 “As this Committee has long emphasized, the best approach to supporting across-the-board innovation and long-term economic growth is to invest in a broad and balanced research portfolio – one that will produce not just planned-for and predictable benefits to the Nation, but also the entirely unexpected windfalls for society and the world,” stated Director Holdren.

Among committee leadership, there was bipartisan support for science and the general mission of NSF. Majority committee leaders expressed qualified support for the agency. “The NSF has great potential to help American science flourish and thus contribute to our economy and the well-being of our country,” asserted Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). “Our focus should be on how the federal government, including the NSF, can maximize the returns from taxpayer-funded research,” he continued.

“I strongly support NSF funding in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, cyber security, and STEM education,” stated Research Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN). “Although the scientific community is not facing an ideal fiscal environment, I still believe that America’s best and brightest scientists will continue to persevere and produce the innovations and discoveries of tomorrow. We should support the hard-working scientist who stays up all night to repeat her experiments and doggedly pursues her ideas, because she believes she is onto a great discovery and will answer the big questions in her field.”

However, committee Republicans took issue with certain initiatives, such as increased funding for climate research through the administration’s Global Change Research Program and investments in alternative energy research. There was also a general sentiment among Republican committee members that there is a need to weed out studies which appear frivolous at first glance. In his opening statement for the afternoon hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Buchson inquired, “Do we really need a study entitled ‘The International Criminal Court and the Pursuit of Justice’?”

Research Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) acknowledged the need to address the nation’s burgeoning debt, but hoped that policymakers account for the fact that prioritizing science funding has multifaceted payoffs for society. “Sometimes priority-setting means increasing investments in areas that deliver real returns for taxpayers by improving our quality of life, protecting our population from natural and man-made threats, and ensuring our economic competitiveness,” stated Lipinski.   “Therefore, I am pleased that the administration’s FY14 budget request continues to emphasize science, innovation, and STEM education generally, and the National Science Foundation in particular.”

To view the OSTP hearing, click here:

To view the NSF hearing, click here:


On April 12, Sally Jewell was sworn in as the 51st Secretary of the Department of Interior. Jewell will be responsible for 70,000 employees and a wide range of initiatives that include federally protected lands, fish and wildlife preservation, energy development and various conservation initiatives.

The Senate confirmed Jewell April 10 by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 87-11. All Democrats and Independents supported the nominee. Republicans who voted against her included John Barrasso (WY), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Tom Coburn (OK), Mike Enzi (WY), Deb Fischer (NE), Mike Johanns (NE), Mike Lee (UT), Mitch McConnell (KY), Marco Rubio (FL), Tim Scott (SC) and David Vitter (LA). Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) had temporary placed a hold on the nominee out of concern over whether Interior would support Idaho’s sage grouse management plan. Sen. Risch removed the hold when outgoing Interior Secretary Salazar sent a letter to the state government, clarifying the agency’s support for the plan.

Secretary Jewell commented on her new role in a DOI press statement: “Our public lands are huge economic engines for the nation,” she said. “From energy development to tourism and outdoor recreation, our lands and waters power our economy and create jobs. I look forward to working with you all to ensure that we are managing our public lands wisely and sustainably so that their multiple uses are available for the generations to come.”

Secretary Jewell was sworn in at the US Supreme Court. Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor administered the oath of office. Jewell and O’Connor worked together on the National Parks Second Century Commission, an independent commission tasked with developing a 21st Century agenda for the National Park Service.


On April 16, the Obama administration released its plan for implementing its National Oceans Policy initiative. The plan outlines a strategy to improve coordination between federal agencies in the management of ocean and coastal resources as well as improve dissemination of scientific information for the betterment of industry and communities.

The goals of the plan include improving forecasting of ocean conditions to protect public safety, improving severe storm and sea level data sharing, improving prioritization in regional marine planning, habitat restoration and improving capability to predict various impacts of climate change. The plan also includes a goal to develop regional marine plans by 2017.

The plan has already been met with opposition on Capitol Hill. “What is certain is that this policy represents a significant step towards the mandatory zoning of our oceans and is a backdoor attempt to control the way inland, coastal and ocean activities are managed,” asserted House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) in a press statement.  “If implemented, it will inflict red tape and economic damage both onshore and offshore across a wide-range of activities including agriculture, fishing, construction, manufacturing, mining, oil and natural gas, and renewable energy.”

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) praised the effort, noting its bipartisan origins. “I’m proud to have supported the Oceans Act in 2000 that led to sweeping bipartisan recommendations for a new and comprehensive national ocean policy,” he stated. “The administration’s thoughtfully revised implementation plan marks a new and practical step in over a decade of federal ocean policy efforts and I look forward to working together with the administration to move the implementation plan forward.”

For additional information on the plan, click here:


On April 11, 2013, biologists from across the US fanned out across Capitol Hill, visiting over 55 congressional offices to talk about how federal investment in science research yields benefits to society.  Organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), co-chairs of the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC), this springtime event helps raise awareness among policymakers about federal science programs, from NSF to NOAA to USDA. ESA’s President Scott Collins and this year’s four ESA Graduate Student Policy Award recipients, Matthew Berg, Lindsay Deel, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie and Carlos Silva were among the 30 participants.

ESA President Scott Collins, together with AIBS President Joe Travis, presented the BESC Congressional Leadership Award to 2013 recipients Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and David Reichert (R-WA). Both Members of Congress have been steadfast supporters of key science legislation such as the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-358) as well as various legislative efforts to maintain science’s role in informing biological policy decisions.

Participants in the BESC Hill visits came prepared with personal stories about how federal funding aids their research, how their work helps them advance their professional development and benefits the communities in which they reside. While firm commitments to support science funding varied office to office, the graduate students and other participants mostly received welcome receptions from Congressional staff and elected officials and were able to use their local commonalities to relate with the policymakers.

The day before the Hill visits, the students met informally with several federal agency scientists to learn more about their role and mission.   Federal entities represented at the briefing included the United States Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Botanical Garden and the National Science Foundation. The federal ecologists also gave tips on how to pursue careers in the federal government. That afternoon the scientists were briefed from representatives of ESA and AIBS on the federal budget process and protocols regarding meeting with congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

For more on the congressional visits, click here:

Sources:AAAS, ClimateWire, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the Washington Post, the White House