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FY15 Budget Request Provides Mixed News for NIH, NSF, Statistical Agencies

1 May 2014 1,459 views One Comment
This column is written to inform ASA members about what the ASA is doing to promote the inclusion of statistics in policymaking and the funding of statistics research. To suggest science policy topics for the ASA to address, contact ASA Director of Science Policy Steve Pierson at pierson@amstat.org.

Pierson-color copySteve Pierson earned his PhD in physics from the University of Minnesota. He spent eight years in the physics department of Worcester Polytechnic Institute before becoming head of government relations at the American Physical Society.

Delayed a month because of the broader budget negotiations, the Obama Administration’s FY15 budget request was released in March. The NIH and NSF requests, if fully funded by Congress, would see both agencies lose ground to inflation. For NIH, its request level is below its FY11 and FY12 levels. The NSF request is 3% more than its FY12 level. For the federal statistical agencies, the requested budgets range from slight decreases to a 28% increase.

Table 1—Requested Budgets for FY15, with Changes with Respect to FY14 and FY12

Table 1—Requested Budgets for FY15, with Changes with Respect to FY14 and FY12

‡The FY13 budgets were generally cuts below FY12 because of sequestration, making the FY12 budget a key marker.
†The FY15 requests for BEA, ERS, NASS, and NCHS included accounting changes and are adjusted here for comparison with prior-year levels.
*SOI’s budget was realigned in FY13, partially accounting for the decrease from FY12.


The NIH request documentation states its modest requested increase would enable a few hundred more grants to be funded in FY15 than in FY14. It seems, though, the bigger priorities—and those most relevant to the statistical community—are the BRAIN and Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiatives. The former would see an increase to $100 million from the $40 million currently funded from NIH. BD2K would be increased to $88 million, roughly double that of current funding.

The NSF FY15 request also features more than a doubling for NSF’s contribution to the administration’s BRAIN Initiative from $14 million to $29 million. NSF also proposes a 11% increase for its support of graduate education (to $333 million); $125 million for Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science, Engineering, and Education (CIF21); $100 million for Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC); $118 million for Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE); and $29 million for Research at the Interface of Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Engineering (BioMaPS). For the NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences, the FY15 request is for $224.4 million, 1.24 million (0.5%) below FY14.

Statistical Agencies

Four statistical agencies see requested increases greater than 10%. The 28% increase for the U.S. Census Bureau is almost entirely for the ramp up to the 2020 Decennial budget. The 26% increase ($12 million) for NSF National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) proposes $7.5 million to enhance the Survey of Doctorate Recipients and the remaining $4.5 million to enhance several other aspects of NCSES’s work. The 23% requested increase ($10.4 million) for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) proposes $2.5 million for two new programs to support the broader administration Indigent Defense Initiative, with the remaining $7.9 million proposed to improve eight BJS programs.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) sees a 12% requested increase ($3 million), but rarely realizes increases through the appropriations process since it is funded through the Highway Trust Fund.

Another five agencies have requested increases in the 3–5% range. The 5.3% increase ($8.6 million) for the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is for four programs: the Geospatial Improvement Initiative ($2.5 million); the government-wide Pollinator Health Initiative ($2 million); the Fruit and Vegetable In-Season Reports for Fruit & Nuts ($2.6 million); and the Chemical Use Reports ($3.8 million). To pay for the four initiatives, NASS will likely have to cut several surveys that were cut in FY13 because of sequestration but restored in FY14.

The 5.3% increase ($12.4 million) for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (Statistics and Assessment) would restore its budget to the FY12 level (without accounting for inflation).

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) would see a 4.7% increase ($5.5 million), which includes $2.4 million for a crowd-source program to evaluate specific building efficiency technologies; $1.5 million to better understand domestic energy markets in the world energy context; and $1.6 million to better track rapidly changing domestic market dynamics.

The Social Security Administration Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics (ORES) would see a 3.4% increase ($1 million), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) would see a 3% increase ($18 million). The BLS and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) are the two agencies most affected by recent budget cuts. Accounting for inflation, the BLS budget is 10% below the level it was several years ago. In FY13, it had to terminate three programs and, earlier this year, announced the curtailing of the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) and International Price Program (IPP). The FY15 request would raise the BLS budget to only its FY11 level (not accounting for inflation) and not restore QCEW or IPP, which would require another $9.5 million. The $18 million requested increase would go to improve the Current Population Survey and Consumer Expenditure Survey.

The final four statistical agencies have requested budgets that range from a few percent decrease to a couple percent increase.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) proposes an increase of $1.56 million (1.6%) to include a new initiative to better track small business economic dynamics as a means to understand more quickly changes in our economy.

The NCHS and Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income Division (SOI) are both flat funded but, as indicated above, the NCHS budget does not reflect a large cut to its funding in FY14 when the roughly $25 million it usually receives from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) was not provided. As a result, it will have to scale back on sample size and content increases to two of its surveys. The FY15 budget proposes a restoration of the PPHF line.

The Economic Research Service (ERS) is the only statistical agency whose budget would actually decrease in the president’s request. The requested budget of $83.4 includes an accounting change, whereby the ERS will have to pay $7.7 million for overhead costs, but is only provided $5.4 million to cover such costs, resulting in the $2.4 million cut.

For all the requested budgets, let me emphasize that Congress now commences its work on the budget, which allows an opportunity to argue for larger increases for NIH and NSF and to support robust support for the federal statistical agencies. To follow Congress’s actions on the FY15 budgets, see these two blog entries: FY15 NSF and NIH Budget Developments and FY15 Statistical Agency Budget Developments.

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