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Federal Budgets and Statistics

1 February 2010 1,336 views No Comment
This column highlights research activities that may be of interest to ASA members. These brief articles include information about new research solicitations and the federal budget for statistics. Comments or suggestions for future articles may be sent to ASA Research and Graduate Education Manager Keith Crank at keith@amstat.org.


Keith Crank has a BS in mathematics education and an MS in mathematics from Michigan State University and a PhD in statistics from Purdue University. Prior to joining the ASA as research and graduate education manager, he was a program officer at the National Science Foundation, primarily in the probability program.

By the time you read this column, you may have heard news reports about the president’s fiscal year 2011 budget being sent to Congress. But, as I write, that is still in the future. What I’m going to write about are the fiscal year 2010 appropriations just passed by Congress.

After receiving the president’s request for the fiscal year 2010 budget back in May (delayed from February because of the transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration), Congress managed to complete five of the 12 appropriations bills that provide funds to keep the federal government operating. (Only one of the five was completed by the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year.) After passing two continuing resolutions to keep the federal government from shutting down, Congress finally passed an omnibus appropriations bill in December that provided funds through the end of the 2010 fiscal year. Continuing resolutions provide funding for a brief time, usually at the same level as the previous year’s appropriations.

So, what does the remainder of fiscal year 2010 have in store for statisticians? Let me start with the funding agencies of primary interest: the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). NSF’s fiscal year 2010 appropriations are $6.9 billion, of which $5.6 billion is for research and related activities (R&RA) and $0.9 billion is for education and human resources (EHR). (Most of the remaining funding goes to agency operations and award management.) This compares to the president’s request for $7.0 billion overall, with $5.7 billion for R&RA and $0.9 billion for EHR.

The R&RA appropriation is an increase of $434.8 million over fiscal year 2009, whereas the president’s request was for an increase of $550.1 million. (I am ignoring the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding for fiscal year 2009 in these comparisons.) If this is pro-rated across the requested increases for the various research areas at NSF, the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS), which is where the Statistics Program resides, would see an increase of $16 million, or 7.0% over fiscal year 2009. (The NSF budget for DMS essentially lumps the entire division budget into a single line item, so it’s impossible to say exactly what impact the fiscal year 2010 appropriation will have on the Statistics Program’s budget.)

At NIH, there is no single place one can identify as a main source of funding for statistics. Overall, NIH will receive $31.0 billion in appropriations. This is a $692 million (2.3%) increase over the fiscal year 2009 appropriations and a $250 million increase over the president’s request. For the four largest institutes, the percentage increases from fiscal year 2009 are 2.7% for the National Cancer Institute; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and National Institute of General Medical Sciences and 2.4% for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). (The increase for NIAID is 2.6%, if the funds to be transferred to the global fund for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis are not included.)

The U.S. Census Bureau will see an increase of $4.1 billion, primarily for the 2010 decennial census. This is in line with the president’s request.

Although the 2010 appropriations for NSF are below the president’s request, they are still fairly good. Currently, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s projections for the 2011 president’s request would have NSF increasing by about 2.9%. There is reason to be optimistic. In addition to the appropriations bills, Congress also prepares a report that provides additional guidance for spending the funds. The report that accompanies the 2010 appropriations for NSF states (in part) the following:

The conferees are concerned with continuity in the level of support for research and development at the National Science Foundation and reiterate concerns expressed by the House that the request for fiscal year 2011 should represent at least a 7% increase for NSF over the conference agreement level for fiscal year 2010 in order to sustain the planned doubling of the foundation’s budget.

While this is no guarantee that NSF will receive a 7% increase in 2011, the makeup of Congress and the Appropriations Committee should not change much before the next appropriations bill is passed.

To contact me, send an email to keith@amstat.org. Questions and comments are always welcome.

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