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Friday, October 19, 2012

America COMPETES 2010 and the FY2013 Budget

Heather B. Gonzalez
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The 112th Congress faces several funding decisions that may affect implementation of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (America COMPETES 2010, P.L. 111-358). Signed on January 4, 2011, this law seeks to improve U.S. competitiveness and innovation by authorizing, among other things, increased federal support for research in the physical sciences and engineering; and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

The President’s FY2013 budget request seeks increased funding for many America COMPETES 2010 research-related activities but includes few specific requests for the law’s STEM education provisions. This approach is consistent with prior legislative and executive actions. The FY2013 request seeks an increase of 4.1% for the so-called “doubling path” accounts at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) core laboratory and construction. This growth rate is less than the authorized rate of 6.3% and equal to the FY2012 enacted rate (4.1%). Some legislators have expressed concerns about the feasibility of the doubling effort given the nation’s current fiscal challenges.

P.L. 112-175 provides continuing appropriations to federal agencies at the FY2012 funding level plus 0.612% from October 2012 through March 27, 2013. However, the Budget Control Act of 2011 requires automatic funding reductions (or sequestration) at federal agencies beginning in January 2013. Office of Management and Budget estimates of the anticipated sequestration’s effect on federal agency budgets suggest that COMPETES Act programs could experience reductions of about 8.2% from FY2012 enacted funding levels.

In the regular appropriations process for FY2013, House and Senate appropriators moved on two of the three annual appropriations bills that typically contain funding for COMPETES Act provisions—Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) and Energy and Water Development (E&W)—before Congress recessed in September. The House has passed its versions of these bills; the Senate has not. Table 1 includes the FY2013 funding status of selected provisions from America COMPETES 2010, the FY2013 Administration budget request, and from related congressional appropriations proposals.

In brief, the House and Senate bills would increase funding for the doubling path accounts in FY2013, but at a lower rate than in prior years. Proposed growth rates for these accounts are 3.8% (House) and 3.9% (Senate), which correspond to almost a 20-year doubling period. The House and Senate bills disagree about funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The House bill provides $200.0 million for the program while the Senate bill recommends the authorized level of $312.0 million.

Regarding STEM education, both the House and Senate bills propose the full request for NSF’s main education account. If enacted, that funding level would be the account’s first increase in two years. The House committee report expresses concern about DOE education activities and recommends reduced funding for some programs. Both the House and Senate bills would provide the requested funding level for the DOE Office of Science’s main education and training account.

Date of Report: October 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R42430
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