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FY 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Signed into Law


by SIOP Administrative Office

In early May, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees concluded negotiations on an omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 244) to fund federal government agencies for the remaining five months of fiscal year (FY) 2017. President Trump signed the bill into law on Friday, May 5. Despite the cuts proposed by the Trump Administration, the final bill provides increases to federal investments in many of the research, education, and healthcare programs important to research universities and non-profit research institutions.

The delayed conclusion of the FY 2017 appropriations process seven months into the fiscal year was brought about by the Trump Administration’s insistence on putting its stamp on federal spending. In the end, however, the Administration relented on its top priorities, such as money for a border wall and increased defense spending, to avoid a government shutdown. The bill includes funding for 11 of 12 annual appropriations bills (the bill funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction projects for FY 2017 passed in December) and upholds the overall discretionary $1.07 trillion spending cap for FY 2017 agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 for both defense and non-defense spending. The bill also provides $93.5 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding for global combat operations and improved military readiness and $8.2 billion in disaster funding to address recovery efforts from fires, floods, and other extreme weather events. This funding is not subject to the spending caps and allows Congress to fund increases in defense and emergency disaster spending without making cuts to non-defense programs.

Even with only a $3 billion increase in total discretionary funding for FY 2017 compared to FY 2016, many research and education agencies that enjoy bipartisan support have increases in funding:

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive $34 billion, an increase of $2 billion, or 6.2 percent, above the FY 2016 enacted level.
  • The Pell Grant program would be expanded to accommodate year-round funding for students while most other student aid investments would be flat funded.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science would receive $5.39 billion, an increase of $42 million, or 0.7 percent, above the FY 2016 enacted level.
  • The DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would receive $306 million, an increase of $15 million, or 5.1 percent, above the FY 2016 enacted level.
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.472 billion, an increase of $9 million, or 0.1 percent, above the FY 2016 enacted level.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $19.7 billion, an increase of $368 million, or 1.9 percent, above the FY 2016 enacted level, including an increase of $176 million for science programs.
  • While Department of Defense (DOD) basic research account would receive $2.3 billion, or a 1.4 percent decrease over last year, applied research and advanced technology development would be increased by 5.4 percent and 8.4 percent respectively.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would receive $1.36 billion, an increase of approximately 2.72 percent above the FY 2016 level. Within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive $375 million, an increase of $25 million above the current enacted level.
  • The Institute of Education Sciences within the Department of Education would be funded at $605 million, a cut of 2.1 percent below the FY 2016 level.

This spending bill provides certainty for federal agencies ahead of what is likely to be a protracted legislative process to decide FY 2018 funding priorities for the country. In contrast to the increases that are provided under the FY 2017 omnibus, the FY 2018 Trump Administration budget blueprint released in March proposed cutting non-defense programs by $54 billion to pay for $54 billion in defense increases. These cuts include reductions to or eliminations of research and higher education priorities such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, National Endowment for the Humanities, environmental agencies, and federal student aid. With this uncertainty ahead for FY 2018 funding and the potential for an extended continuing resolution, Congress has sought to provide strong FY 2017 funding with the omnibus bill to meet agency needs.

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC analyzed the FY 2017 omnibus and provided an analysis of federal funding for research, education, and healthcare available here.