FY18 Omnibus Has Good News, Bad News

The FY18 omnibus bill—revealed March 21 and still needing to be approved—has a $1.36 billion increase (93%) to $2.81 billion for the US Census Bureau, a much-needed increase as the bureau prepares for the decennial census in 24 months. The amount is a welcome surprise because the House and Senate levels released last summer were only $1.5 billion and the modified administration request was only $1.7 billion. Advocates are praising the bipartisan effort to achieve this level at a crucial stage when the advertising and partnership campaigns must begin.

The National Institutes of Health is also a big winner, with a $3 billion increase (8.8%) over FY17 to $37 billion, exceeding the prior House and Senate levels of approximately $1 billion and $2 billion, respectively. The omnibus bill has an encouraging 4% increase for the National Science Foundation to $7.87 billion in FY18.

The omnibus bill, unfortunately, flat funds the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Center for Health Statistics, and Economic Research Service and cuts Bureau of Economic Analysis 7.5%—levels that are disappointing considering the role of these agencies to our data infrastructure, which is so critical to our economic prosperity and competitiveness. The FY18 levels for BLS and NCHS are especially concerning because these two agencies remain at their FY10 levels, thereby jeopardizing their programs, ability to innovate, and capacity to keep up with changing economy (e.g., effects of gig economy, AI, robotics) and societal trends.

Returning to more encouraging news, the omnibus bill provides a 12% boost to the National Agricultural Statistics Service for the quinquennial Census of Agriculture and small boosts to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (5.5%) and Energy Information Administration (2.5%).

Congress also rejected the administration’s proposed FY18 cuts to forensic science research and programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), adopting the Senate language to maintain these programs. The bill also funds the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) at $334 million, restoring it to its FY16 level after a $10 million cut in FY17 and attempts by the administration and House to cut its budget in FY18. Both AHRQ and NIST’s forensic science work are slated for cuts in the administration’s FY19 budget request.

Details are available in the following blog posts: FY18 Statistical Agency Budget Developments and FY18 NIH, NSF, AHRQ, and FDA Budget Developments. Watch, too, for an upcoming article in Amstat News summarizing the final FY18 budget and FY19 budget request.

Once the FY18 budget is resolved, Congress will turn its attention to the FY19 budget, which begins in six months. You can follow the FY19 budget deliberations on these sites: FY19 Statistical Agency Budget Developments and FY19 NIH, NSF, AHRQ, & FDA Budget Developments.