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US House appropriations bills would make major cuts to innovation

June 29, 2017
By: Jason Rittenberg

The House Appropriations Committee began releasing FY 2018 “markup” budget bills this week, and the proposals would cut billions in non-defense spending. EDA would lose $100 million* in funding, SBA’s entrepreneurial development programs would lose $34 million, NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership would lose $30 million, and Energy’s ARPA-E would be eliminated, among other cuts. As SSTI noted for both the administration’s proposed FY 2017 and FY 2018 budgets, congressional statements rejecting the president’s total budget package did not necessarily make innovation safe.

Budget bills are appearing now because the House Republicans agreed to FY 2018 discretionary baseline funding levels of $621.5 billion for defense and $511 billion for non-defense spending. The FY 2018 non-defense figure is $8 billion less than the baseline FY 2017 funding level — and a total of $43 billion less funding when supplemental spending is considered.

Appropriations subcommittees are required to fund programs only up to their assigned spending levels. The mandate from House leadership to cut billions in domestic spending, therefore, accounts for part of the disconnect between members’ largely supportive statements for programs during committee hearings and the significant cuts in these bills.

Innovation funding levels

As of June 28, the House Appropriations Committee had released seven budget bills. The following lists provide an overview of FY 2018 (compared to FY 2017) science and innovation funding levels on a per-subcommittee basis.

Agriculture (bill)

  • USDA: Agricultural Research Service funding of $1.1 billion (-$137 million)
  • USDA: Rural Development funding of $226 million (no change) and authorizes the administration’s proposed Rural Economic Infrastructure Grants account as a consolidation of other programs at $123 million

Commerce, Justice, Science (bill)

  • EDA: funding of $176 million (-$100 million)* including Regional Innovation Strategies
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership: program funding of $100 million (-$30 million)
  • Manufacturing USA: program funding of $5 million (-$20 million)
  • Minority Business Development Agency: total funding of $34 million (no change)
  • NASA education programs: funding of $90 million (-$10 million)
  • NASA science programs: funding of $5.9 billion ($94 million)
  • National Telecommunications and Information Administration: total funding of $30 million (-$2 million)
  • NSF total funding of $7.3 billion (-$133 million) with level funding of $6 billion for research and related activities

Defense (bill)

  • Department-wide R&D: total funding of $82.7 billion ($10 billion)
  • Office of Economic Adjustment: program funding of $235 million ($168 million)

Energy and Water (bill)

  • Energy science research: funding of $5.4 billion (no change)
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy: funding of $0 (-$306 million)
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: total funding of $1.1 billion (-$1 billion)

Financial Services (bill)

  • CDFI Fund: total funding of $190 million (-$58 million)
  • SBA: entrepreneurial development programs funding of $211 million (-$34 million) with $120 million specifically assigned to small business development centers (-$5 million)

Overall spending levels

While the House would cut billions from non-defense spending, the House’s total discretionary baseline funding level of $1.13 trillion is $68.5 billion more than is allowed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). This bill places a statutory limit on how much Congress can appropriate in each fiscal year. BCA’s limits for FY 2018 are $549 billion for defense and $516 billion for non-defense spending.

Absent new legislation to increase the current limits, the House’s plan would trigger the automatic spending reductions known as sequestration. The House’s plan would already add $75 billion in supplemental war funding above the baseline but would need to increase the limits by at least $68.5 billion or otherwise alter BCA to avoid automatic cuts.

Next steps

These markup bills are from the House appropriations subcommittees, and the full committee will consider each bill and have an opportunity to make changes, as will the entire chamber. The Senate is expected to begin its appropriations process within the next few weeks.

Anyone concerned with the status of funding for any of these programs should contact their representatives, particularly if the member serves on the appropriations committee. For help with this outreach, contact SSTI at 614-901-1690 or contactus@ssti.org


* An earlier version of the article misstated the amount of the cuts to EDA. The House is proposing $140 million in program funding, a reduction of $97 million, and $36 million in administrative funding, a reduction of $3 million for FY 2018 relative to FY 2017.

federal budget, eda, dept of commerce, dept of defense, dept of energy, sba, usda, nist, nsf