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FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Signed into Law


by SIOP Administrative Office

On March 22, Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 1625) to fund federal government agencies for the remaining six months of fiscal year (FY) 2018. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support with a vote of 256-167 in the House and 65-32 in the Senate. On March 23, President Trump signed the bill into law before the continuing resolution expired, avoiding a government shutdown.

Congress not only rejected the cuts proposed by the Trump Administration but in some cases provided significant increases to federal investments in many of the research, education, and healthcare programs important to research universities and non-profit research institutions. This is a significant advocacy victory for the research community and underscores the importance of engagements like SIOP’s appropriations testimony.

The $1.3 trillion bill includes funding for all 12 annual appropriations bills. The bill upholds the overall discretionary $1.21 trillion spending cap for FY 2018 agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 for both defense and non-defense spending and includes $78 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding for global combat operations and improved military readiness.

The two-year budget agreement passed in February 2018 paved the way for final FY 2018 appropriations by increasing spending limits imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The budget deal increased defense spending by $80 billion and non-defense spending by $63 billion.  

With $143 billion more to spend in FY 2018, many research and education programs were the beneficiaries of significant funding increases, and even political targets, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, escaped unscathed. Some highlights include:

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive $37.1 billion, an increase of $3 billion, or 8.8 percent, above the FY 2017 enacted level.
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) will receive $7.767 billion, an increase of $295 million, or 3.9 percent, above the FY 2017 enacted level.
  • The Department of Defense (DOD) basic research account will receive $2.3 billion, or a 2.9 percent increase over last year; this increase is directed towards the Navy and Defense-Wide basic research programs, with Army and Air Force basic research programs receiving small cuts.
  • The Pell Grant program will be expanded to support a maximum Pell award of $6,095 in addition to increased funding for other federal student aid programs including Federal Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will receive $20.7 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion, or 5.5 percent, above the FY 2017 enacted level, including an increase of $456.6 million for science programs.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science will receive $6.26 billion, an increase of $868 million, or 16 percent, above the FY 2017 enacted level and the largest yearly increase in its 40-year history.
  • The Institute of Education Sciences within the Department of Education will be funded at $613.5 million, an increase of 1.4 percent above the FY 2017 level.
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEH) will not be terminated and each grows by 2 percent over FY 2017 enacted levels.

With this bill, Congress sent a strong message of its funding priorities and how they sharply contrast with the Trump Administration’s proposals. This has been evident in recent budget hearings where many Members of Congress have made it clear that they do not consider the Administration’s budget requests to be serious spending proposals. For example, the FY 2019 budget request again proposes to cut research and terminate popular programs, but Congress is likely to again support these activities in the FY 2019 appropriations process.

This spending bill will provide certainty for federal agencies ahead of midterm elections in November and the inevitable continuing resolutions that will continue spending into FY 2019. While total discretionary funding in FY 2019 is already set in the two-year budget agreement and the Appropriations Committees are likely to complete most, if not all, of their bills by the end of the summer, final FY 2019 appropriations will likely not be completed until after the midterm elections. In addition, funding increases in FY 2019 will not be as large as FY 2018. Total discretionary funding increases from FY 2018 to FY 2019 will be $36 billion, of which $18 billion is for non-defense spending.

Next steps: Over the next month, program managers at federal research agencies will determine funding allocations for programs and projects based on final appropriations and then proceed with renewals, new opportunities, and award announcements. With only six months left in the fiscal year, federal research agencies are preparing to release many funding solicitations; research universities and non-profit research institutions should be ready to respond quickly to future opportunities.

SIOP members can access the analysis of the bill prepared by Lewis-Burke Associates LLC here.