Federal Budget to Increase for NIH and NSF, Decrease for Other Programs

February 24th, 2004

On January 23, 2004, nearly four months after its expected passage, the President signed into law the fiscal year 2004 Consolidated Appropriations bill (H.R. 2673) which completed the FY 2004 Federal budget. The Consolidated Appropriations bill contained seven of the thirteen annual appropriation bills, including the bills that fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NIH received $27.98 billion in FY 2004, an increase of $1 billion or 3.7% more than in FY 2003. The NSF received $5.7 billion in FY 2004, an increase of $300 million or 5.2% more than in FY 2003. A table outlining the final FY 2004 appropriations figures for the National Institutes of Health is available here as a PDF.

On February 2nd, President Bush sent his FY 2005 budget proposal to Congress. The proposed FY 2005 budget provides total spending of $2.4 trillion. Mandatory spending totals $1.582 trillion and discretionary spending totals $818 billion, an increase of $31 billion or 3.9% over last year's discretionary spending. However, this 3.9% increase is dedicated entirely to the Administration's two biggest priorities, defense and homeland security. This leaves a 0.5% increase for all other discretionary spending. With inflation currently around 2%, a 0.5% spending cap is, in effect, a cut in domestic spending. Overall health funding did not fare well in the President's proposal. Total discretionary funding at the Department of Health and Human Services is projected to be cut by $1.1 billion. With the federal deficit expected to reach $521 billion this year, most federal research and development programs will suffer significantly reduced budgets.

Unlike most health programs, the President requested slight increases for the NIH and the NSF. The Administration proposed that the NIH receive $28.607 billion in FY 2005, an increase of $729 million (2.6%). This is projected to fund 39,986 research project grants (RPGs), an increase of 558 over FY 2004. It includes 10,393 new and competing RPGs, an increase of 258. It is important to note that in order to increase the number of grants, the NIH would provide smaller than expected increases in the average cost of grants for FY 2005.

The NSF fared slightly better than the NIH, receiving $5.745 billion under the President's FY 2005 budget proposal. This is an increase of $167 million or 3% over FY 2004. Under the proposal, the NSF Biological Sciences Directorate receives $599.93 million, which is $13.04 million or 2.2% more than it received in FY 2004.

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