Budget Sequester Goes into Effect Today

Unless there is last minute fix by Congress (which isn’t even in session today), the sequester that has taken over the news in the United States will go into effect at 11:59 pm tonight. At that time, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will issue a notice directing federal agencies to reduce their FY 2013 budgets to meet the funding levels mandated by the sequester-a total reduction of $85.3 billion between now and September 30, 2013. Some agencies have already issued general guidance on how they will implement the cuts, the memo directs agencies to provide more specifics to the public and to Congress.

While the sequester will start tonight, that does not mean that government functions will come to a halt immediately. Rather, over the next few weeks and months, the cuts will start to manifest themselves. In the case of science funding, there will be fewer awards made and, in some cases, previous awards will be decreased in size. The specifics are up to the agencies and at NIH, the specific institutes.

National Science Foundation: Director Subra Suresh issued a letter to the research community on the NSF website indicating that current NSF grantees will not see cuts to their awards made prior to the sequester. Instead, NSF will make fewer new awards over the remainder a year. The estimate is that 1000 fewer grants will be awarded in 2013 than in 2012.

National Institutes of Health: In general guidance, NIH officials have only said that “Final levels of FY 2013 funding may be reduced by a sequestration.” The guidance goes on to say that while all non-competing continuation awards are currently being funded at a level below that indicated on the most recent Notice of Award (generally up to 90% of the previously committed level), final levels could be reduced further. In addition, NIH will make fewer competing awards to meet the required funding cuts. The notice says that when sequestration goes into effect, Institutes and Centers will announce their operating plans to meet the new budget levels. Overall, NIH’s budget will be reduced $1.6 billion, or 5.1% for 2013.

Details from other agencies will be forthcoming in the next few days.

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