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AAU Urges Congress To Complete FY17 Appropriations Process, Place High Priority on Research, Higher Education


Congress is making good progress on the FY17 appropriations process. Working within the unfortunate confines of flat discretionary spending caps, there has been considerable bipartisan support for some increases in the federal investments in research and higher education. These increases are very important for advancing the U.S. scientific enterprise, fostering innovation in the nation’s economy, improving health, and improving college access for low-income students.

However, the picture is by no means all positive, particularly with respect to some key research agencies, and we call on the House and Senate to turn proposed cuts into the increases that are necessary to fuel American innovation and strengthen our economy.

In addition, we urge Congress to complete the appropriations process this year and not resort to a long-term continuing resolution that essentially continues FY16 spending without making needed new investments. It is our hope that Congress can maintain its current, encouraging momentum.

We are very pleased that the Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed a significant increase for National Institutes of Health biomedical research, a significant increase for USDA’s competitive Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, and a modest increase for research by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and ARPA-E. House and Senate appropriators have also proposed modest increases for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

We also appreciate that the Senate is using the surplus in the Pell Grant program to restore the year-round Pell program, which can improve time to completion for approximately a million students.

However, we are very concerned that the House and Senate bills both cut National Science Foundation funding in real terms, one by flat funding the agency, the other by providing a below-inflation increase. We are also concerned about significant cuts made by the House and Senate in Defense 6.1 basic research and by the Senate’s significant cuts in NASA research.

The severe limits on discretionary spending are not sustainable. They exist because Congress and the Administration have not been able to agree on measures to address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenge. We recognize that such legislation is not likely in an election year. So we urge Congress and the Administration to complete their appropriations work this year, place a high priority on research and higher education, and lay the groundwork for serious reforms in the next Congress and administration.