The annual U.S. federal budget cycle is set to kick off Monday at 11:30 am in Washington, D.C., when the White House releases its spending request to Congress for the 2016 fiscal year that begins in October. Many researchers will be watching closely to see how it treats the agencies that fund their work – and ScienceInsider will reporting the numbers and providing analysis throughout the day.
President Barack Obama has already signaled that he will ask for a 7% increase in discretionary spending (the part of the budget that includes annual research funding). But it’s not yet known how much key science funding agencies will get. Then the Republican-led Congress gets to weigh in, and it’s almost certain to object to things the president wants. Still, the White House request helps set the terms of the annual budget debate, which likely won’t be settled until late this year.
Here is some background that will help you put the numbers in context, along with some resources that provide more information.
1. The big picture: Most federal spending pays for mandatory programs and interest on the debt.
All federal spending on research & development (about $140 billion in 2015) fits into the relatively small “discretionary spending” portion of the federal budget. Discretionary spending, which is the only part of the budget that Congress and the White House can control from year to year, accounted for just 29% of the nearly $4 trillion the government will spend this year (the green slice in this pie chart, prepared by the nonprofit National Priorities Project). The rest -- 72% -- goes to so-called mandatory programs, such as the Medicare health program for senior citizens, and interest on the federal debt. This spending is automatic, although Congress can always change the rules...Continue Reading »