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AAU Statement on Senate Appropriations Committee Approval of FY16 Funding Bills for Science


Following is a statement by the Association of American Universities on three FY16 appropriations bills the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed that fund scientific research.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved three FY16 appropriations bills that have a significant impact on the nation’s investment in research. In each instance, the Senate has generally taken a measured approach to research funding in the context of the current budget caps, in contrast to the House of Representatives, which has deeply cut critical areas of research.

The House Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA, and the Energy and Water bill, which includes the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science and ARPA-E, are constricted by sequestration-level spending caps. While the caps are tight, we are disappointed that NSF was flat-funded and that the NASA Planetary Science directorate was cut deeply. However, the Committee has provided small increases to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and ARPA-E.

In addition, the Defense appropriations bill provides an increase for 6.1 basic research, rejecting the puzzling cut in this research approved by the House. The Defense spending bill was granted significant additional resources beyond the sequestration-level cap in both the House and Senate. This research is critical to the continuing ability of the Department of Defense to keep our military personnel the world’s most effective fighting force – and to keep them safe. There are no long-term innovations without today’s basic research.

We are pleased that the Senate, with one exception, has so far rejected the House approach of cutting deeply into certain types of research, such as social sciences and geosciences at NSF. However, what these bills make clear is that Congress and the President need to reach a budget agreement that addresses our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges and allows for the elimination of the sequestration-level budget caps, thus facilitating greater and sustained investments in scientific research. Such an agreement will require that our leaders finally address entitlement and tax reforms.

As the appropriations process moves forward, we encourage Congress to take the steps that are needed to provide robust and sustainable funding for America’s research enterprise.

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The Association of American Universities (AAU) is an association of 60 U.S. and two Canadian public and private research universities. It focuses on issues such as funding for research, research policy issues, and graduate and undergraduate education. AAU member universities are on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship, and solutions that contribute to the nation's economy, security, and wellbeing. AAU’s 60 U.S. universities award nearly one-half of all U.S. doctoral degrees and 55 percent of those in STEM fields.

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