2015 Federal Budget: What it Means to You

A new year, new appropriations, a new congress, and new fiscal management procedures will bring new concerns for grantees. Increasingly, applicants must focus their attention on accountability and performance measurements. The need for research money for large universities and laboratories is increasing, as is the pressure for faculty to receive external support. Given that the budgets across all funding agencies will remain virtually unchanged, grants will become more fiercely competitive. This is especially true for the state colleges and universities that have heavy teaching loads. For all institutions, an increased reliance on the private sector is expected. This trend is already in progress for some major foundations and private donors, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates, Google, Amazon, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. These organizations seem to be gaining ground on funding agendas that have long been under the purview of the federal government. Nevertheless, the priorities still are in the realm of government direction. So who are the winners and losers? Although some funding agencies did a little better than others, the budgets for all remain flat in essence. When factoring in inflation, the appropriated budgets are lower than 2014. Since the new congress has already signaled fiscal restraint for funding agencies, the funding horizon may grow bleaker.

The Winners

The two agencies that appear to be favored are NASA and the NSF, both of which received modest funding increases. NASA will get approximately $18 billion, an increase of $364 million. The big winner is the agency’s science mission, which will be $94 million dollars more than the 2014 level of $5.151 billion. The NSF, which had a rocky 2014, did receive an increase to $7.344 billion. In 2014, the Republican Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), and chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, campaigned to demonstrate how the NSF’s $7 billion research agency is “wasting” taxpayer dollars on frivolous or low-priority projects, particularly in the social sciences. Nevertheless, the six NSF directorates will increase by $125 million to $5.93 billion and the education directorates will grow by $20 million to $866 million.

The Stagnant

The NIH will receive $30 billion, which is $150 million above the 2014 budget. Disappointed in the appropriation results, Carrie Wolinetz, president of United for Medical Research stated: “Sustained increases to the NIH budget are necessary to close our nation’s innovation deficit – the widening gap between the current medical research funding levels and the investment required to ensure the U.S. remains the world’s innovation leader.”

The Losers

On the other hand, the areas that seem to be in continued peril are the social sciences and humanities. The social sciences have increasingly been questioned by congress, and support for their research is waning across all agencies. Funding for the arts and humanities remains flat, often reflecting the sentiments of colleges and universities.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science did not do well, since the budget remained flat. Further, the bill’s language makes the funding contingent upon management reforms.

The EPA fared the worst. The agency’s budget has been slashed by $2.2 billion – or 21 percent – since 2010, and is $60 million less than the $8.1 billion budget in 2014. The cuts mean that the EPA will need to reduce its staffing to the lowest levels since 1989.

To Be Determined

The 2015 Budget for the Department of Education focuses on six priorities: (1)increasing equity and opportunity for all students; (2) strengthening support for teachers and school leaders; (3)expanding high-quality preschool programs; (4) affordability and quality in post secondary education; (5) promoting educational innovation and improvement; and (6) improving school safety and climate. The Obama Administration is requesting $68.6 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education in 2015, an increase of $1.3 billion – or 1.9 percent – more than the 2014 budget.

Community colleges will do well in adult education, workforce development, and affordability of education, because these are the priorities of the President. Very recently, President Obama announced a plan for free community college education.

Moving Forward

Institutions and organizations seeking funding in 2015 will have to diversify their requests. The Federal Government will continue to be a major source for research, but foundation and corporate giving will increase their weight in the formula. Equally, partnerships between government and the private sector will be favored, due to cost-sharing for major research. In all cases, accountability and performance measurements will continue to increase in significance in the decision-making process.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

2 comments on “2015 Federal Budget: What it Means to You

  1. “After all, for these rewards it is rlealy YOU as the PI that’s being funded. The research you propose is more an example of what you can do than anything.”I don’t think so.Bob: “I don’t see how this wastes anyone’s time unless the proposal is clearly inappropriate for one of the agencies.”The problem is if everyone takes all their proposals and sends them everywhere, which they would if this practice were encouraged. The NSF panel I was on a few years ago would have had 200 rather than 100 proposals to evaluate every six months, plus the headache of trying to figure out what all the other panels had done with those same 200 proposals. Not to mention the lunacy of having to solicit multiple rounds of outside reviews, doubling everyone’s review loads. All to distribute no more money.One can spot duplicity via the current & pending. It would be foolhardy to submit duplicate proposals that neglect to mention each on the other C&P.

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