New Budget Deal to Ease Sequester

US science may get temporary respite from across-the-board funding cuts that have been squeezing research budgets for more than 10 months.

By | December 11, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, US DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURYAmerican legislators have hammered out a tentative, two-year budget deal that, if approved, would soften the sting of the government-wide cuts that have left some researchers scrambling to fund their work this year. Though the bipartisan agreement wouldn’t dial back all of the cuts that went into effect this March when the so-called sequestration slashed budgets at federal science agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), it would provide some relief for the next couple of years.

“[The budget deal] clears the path for critical investments in things like scientific research, which has the potential to unleash new innovation and new industries,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

The new deal would increase 2014 discretionary spending to $1.012 trillion—a $45 billion dollar increase over the level mandated by the 2011 law that set the sequester in motion. It would set 2015 discretionary spending at $1.014 trillion.

The agreement, struck Tuesday (December 10) between key members of the US House of Representatives and the Senate, would eliminate at least one half of the cuts planned for 2014 and about a quarter of those slated for 2015, according to ScienceInsider. Cuts set to take effect from 2016 to 2020, however, remain in place for now.

“While I am pleased to see the deal includes some relief from sequestration, and we strongly support its passage by Congress, it is a small step forward in mending the damage done to medical research supported by NIH,” Carrie Wolinetz, a spokesperson for United for Medical Research, a coalition of universities and advocacy groups, told Science. “The looming threats of low budget caps and resumption of the sequester after 2015 will continue to cast a pall on the medical innovation ecosystem."

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