We (probably) have a budget for 2018; what’s in it for the mathematical sciences?

It has been a (very) busy week, budget-wise! On Wednesday evening, the House introduced its (very) long 2,232-page omnibus spending bill. On Thursday, the House passed it and in the (very) early hours of this morning (Friday at roughly 12:30 a.m.) the Senate passed it.

Now what? Breaking news reports that President Trump is threatening to veto it while the White House indicates he will sign. Probably by the time you are reading this, we know if he did or didn’t sign. If he signs it today, we will avoid another government shutdown and end the FY2018 budget negotiations.

The National Science Foundation’s overall funding level was increased to \$7.767 billion (a 4% increase over FY2017), and the Research & Related Activities (R&RA) account was funded at \$6.334 billion (5.5% increase).  The Directorate of Education and Human Resources has its own budget line and this is increased to \$902 million (3.3% increase). We do not know yet how the R&RA funds will be distributed across NSF Directorates. To put this in a bit of perspective, the President had originally proposed an 11% cut to the NSF; Congress did not accept this and instead proposed a 2% cut. The February  Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 made new funds available and this ultimately led to the 4% increase.

While most federal funding for mathematics research comes from the NSF, over 30% comes from other agencies. The chart below (credit to Matt Hourihan, AAAS) shows that science overall received very good news with this budget.

The House summary notes that the bill increases “funding for research grants at the National Science Foundation (\$301M above FY17) to foster innovation, particularly in areas like advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.” This appears to bode well for the mathematical sciences.

Congress does not decide how much each Directorate gets. The NSF determines the distribution of the R&RA funds between the disciplinary areas (this will include for the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS), which sits inside the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS)). Once the President signs the budget into law, they will set to work; we might expect to know their plan in a few months (June?). It is, however, important to note that key players — including​ House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith — are interested in having a say about how the NSF allocates its funds among Directorate (in particular, there is an interest by some to move funds away from the Directorate of Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) and from the Geosciences Directorate (GEO)).

In the meantime, the NSF has released it FY2019 budget proposal. More on that in future posts.

Am I glad this week is over? (very)

About Karen Saxe

Karen Saxe is Director of the AMS Office of Government Relations which works to connect the mathematics community with Washington decision-makers who affect mathematics research and education. Over many years she has contributed much time to the AMS, MAA, and AWM, including service as vice president of the MAA and in policy and advocacy work with all three. She was the 2013-2014 AMS Congressional Fellow, working for Senator Al Franken on education issues, with focus on higher education and STEM education. In Minnesota she has served on the Citizens Redistricting Commission following the 2010 census and serves on the Common Cause Minnesota Redistricting Leadership Circle. She has three children and, when not at work especially enjoys being with them and reading, hiking and sharing good food and wine and beer with family and friends.
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