FY 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Signed into Law

By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC  |  June 9, 2017

On May 1, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees concluded negotiations on an omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 244) to fund federal government agencies for the remaining five months of fiscal year (FY) 2017. President Trump signed the bill into law on May 5. Despite the cuts proposed by the Trump Administration, the final bill provides increases to federal investments in many of the research, education, and health-care programs that are important to research universities and nonprofit research institutions.

The delayed conclusion of the FY 2017 appropriations process seven months into the fiscal year was brought about by the Trump Administration's insistence on putting its stamp on federal spending. In the end, however, the Administration relented on its top priorities, such as money for a border wall and increased defense spending, to avoid a government shutdown.

The bill includes funding for 11 of 12 annual appropriations bills (the bill funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction projects for FY 2017 passed in December) and upholds the overall discretionary $1.07 trillion spending cap for FY 2017 agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 for both defense and nondefense spending. The bill also provides $93.5 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding for global combat operations and improved military readiness, and $8.2 billion in disaster funding to address recovery efforts from fires, floods, and other extreme weather events. This funding is not subject to the spending caps and allows Congress to fund increases in defense and emergency disaster spending without making cuts to nondefense programs.

Even with only a $3 billion increase in total discretionary funding for FY 2017 compared with FY 2016, many research and education agencies that enjoy bipartisan support have increases in funding:

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive $34 billion, an increase of $2 billion, or 6.2%, above the FY 2016 enacted level.

  • The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science would receive $5.39 billion, an increase of $42 million, or 0.7%, above the FY 2016 enacted level.

  • The DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would receive $306 million, an increase of $15 million, or 5.1%, above the FY 2016 enacted level.

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.472 billion, an increase of $9 million, or 0.1%, above the FY 2016 enacted level. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $19.7 billion, an increase of $368 million, or 1.9%, above the FY 2016 enacted level, including an increase of $176 million for science programs.

  • Although Department of Defense (DOD) basic research would receive $2.3 billion, or a 1.4% decrease over last year, applied research and advanced technology development would be increased by 5.4% and 8.4%, respectively.

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would receive $1.36 billion, an increase of approximately 2.72% above the FY 2016 level. Within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive $375 million, an increase of $25 million above the current enacted level.

  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) would receive a top line funding increase of $1.3 billion, or 1.6% above the FY 2016 enacted level. Key modal administrations within DOT, including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), would also receive modest increases.

​This spending bill provides certainty for federal agencies ahead of what is likely to be a protracted legislative process to decide FY 2018 funding priorities. In contrast to the increases that are provided under the FY 2017 omnibus, the Trump Administration FY 2018 budget blueprint, released in March, and the president's budget request, released on May 23, proposed cutting nondefense programs by $54 billion to pay for $54 billion in defense increases. These cuts include reductions to or eliminations of research and higher education priorities such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, National Endowment for the Humanities, environmental agencies, and federal student aid. With this uncertainty ahead for FY 2018 funding and the potential for an extended continuing resolution, Congress has sought to provide strong FY 2017 funding with the omnibus bill to meet agency needs.

Sources and additional information:

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, a leading Washington, D.C.-based government relations and consulting firm, represents the public policy interests of scientific societies and institutions of higher education. Lewis-Burke's staff of about 20 government relations professionals works to promote the federal research and policy goals of HFES and the HF/E community.