The science cuts from sequestration

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The journal Science today published this detailed look at the cuts that would occur in all the federal government’s various science programs should the automatic budget cuts outlined in the sequestration legislation occur on January 2, 2013.

Not surprising, the article includes a great deal of moaning and groaning about the terrible harm the cuts would have on science research should they occur. From the Obama administration:

“The report leaves no question that sequestration would be deeply destructive,” a senior Administration official told reporters in a conference call this afternoon. “The Administration does not support [these] indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts.”

And then there’s this quote from one science organization:

“Today’s OMB report confirms the worst,” Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents major research campuses, said in a statement. “A budget sequester in January would have a terrible short- and long-term impact on the nation’s investments in scientific research and education, investments that are essential for long-term economic growth and prosperity.”

There are more such quotes in the article.

The trouble is, this is all hogwash. All the automatic cuts require is an 8.2% reduction in their budgets, which in almost every case will bring the budgets of these agencies back down to what they got in 2007.

Let me repeat that: Sequestration will only reduce the science budget down to numbers equivalent to the 2007 federal budget. I don’t remember the United States being a primitive, prehistoric culture with no science research in 2007. Do you?

For example, the enacted budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2012 was $30.7 billion. Obama had requested $30.9 billion for 2013. Sequestration will force NIH’s 2013 budget down to $28.3 billion, only slightly less than it received in 2007 ($28.9 billion). Hardly a disaster. Similarly, the National Science Foundation (NSF) got $6.98 billion in 2013. Obama requested $7.37 billion. Sequestration would give NSF $5.9 billion, exactly the same amount it got in 2007.

In truth, these cuts are actually quite reasonable, and all the fear-mongering about them should be ignored. And this applies as well to the cuts being proposed for military spending, which are slightly higher (9.4%) but harder devastating.



  • Given the billions this Administration is squandering on its pet projects and political cronies, I will look forward to these cuts.

  • wodun

    The military cuts are in addition to $500b cut by Obama over the same time period. Still, $1t over ten years shouldn’t totally gut defense.

  • Jim

    We all should do our best to make sure sequestration goes into effect, and then say,
    “Well done. What’s next?”
    10% cuts across the board is not too much to ask.
    I don’t understand all this hand wringing about sequestration…its one of the best things Congress, working along with the President, have been able to do in a long, long time.

  • I am astonished. We are in complete agreement.

    I see nothing wrong with sequestration, and hope it goes into effect. And if it doesn’t this will once again demonstrate that Congress and the President (whoever that is) are not serious about bringing the federal debt under control.

  • Jim

    Yes…you and me out for a beer…talking about sequestration, Ry Cooder, Bob Dylan, the Mets…everything else we keep off-topic while the beer is flowing.
    Nah, I’m sure there is more we would agree on.

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