Obama Submits FY 2017 Budget Proposal

On February 9, 2016 President Obama submitted his fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget proposal to Congress. This is his final budget so he used it to highlight various priorities, including research: If his proposals were enacted, aggregate funding for research and development would increase by 4% in FY 2017.

Late last year Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 as part of a two-year budget deal. This legislation provided additional discretionary funding for FY 2016 and 2017. However, the overall budget level for FY 2017 is only $3 billion above the FY 2016 level. Although President Obama adhered to these caps in terms of discretionary spending, he also proposed mandatory funding to expand programs in areas that represent the administration’s priorities. Since these programs are currently funded through discretionary spending—i.e., annual appropriations—this is a major change and would require new legislation. (Given the partisan atmosphere in Washington and the fact that this is an election year, it is doubtful that this will happen.)

Not surprisingly, many Members of Congress have declared President Obama’s budget dead on arrival. In the coming weeks more information will become available as Congress gets the budget and appropriations processes underway.

Overview of research agency funding requests in the President’s FY 2017 budget:

Agency Current FY 2016 Level FY 2017 Proposal FY 2017 Discretionary Request FY 2017 Mandatory Request FASEB FY 2017 Recommendation
NIH $32.311 billion $33.13 billion (+2.6% over FY16) $31.31 billion ($1 billion below FY16) $825 million for initiatives; $1.145 billion for the base At least $35 billion
NSF $7.46 billion $7.96 billion (+6.7% over FY16) $7.56 billion ($100 million above FY16) $400 million At least $7.9 billion
VA Medical & Prosthetic Research $630.7 million $663 million (+5% over FY16) $663 million ($32.3 million above FY16) $0 At least $664.7 million
NASA $19.3 billion $19.0 billion (-1.6% over FY16) $18.25 billion ($1.05 billion below FY16) $763 million FASEB does not make a recommendation


Program Highlights


  • The NIH budget proposal includes $825 million in new money for priority programs including the Cancer Moonshot ($680 million), the Personalized Medicine Initiative ($100 million), and the BRAIN initiative ($45 million).
  • The budget would hold the rest of the NIH to FY 2016 funding levels.
  • The FY 2017 request would increase the estimated total number of research project grants (RPGs) to 36,440 (+600 vs. FY 2016), with 9,946 new and competing grants (-807 vs. FY 2016). (Since some of NIH’s FY 2016 budget increase will be spent on RPGs that incur multi-year commitments, there will be a decrease in the number of new and competing grants in FY 2017.)


  • The NSF budget proposal would provide a $500 million increase. However, $400 million of that request would be provided by new mandatory spending that Congress would have to authorize.
  • Under the proposal, the BIO directorate budget would be increased by 6.2%.
  • Research and related activities as a whole would get a 6.5% increase.