Arctic Research Federal Funding Update for FY 2012

The Obama Administration's fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget request, released on 14 February 2011, would provide $7.8 billion for NSF, an increase of 13% above the 2010 enacted level. This request includes $477.41 million for NSF's Office of Polar Programs and $112.94 million for the Arctic Sciences Division, 5.8% and 6.2% increases respectively over the level enacted for FY 2010. (Note: a full-year continuing appropriations act, enacted on 15 April 2011, funded NSF at $6.8 billion for FY 2011, a 1.5% reduction from the FY 2010 enacted spending level. FY 2011 ended on 30 September 2011.)

The President's proposed budget for NSF's Division of Arctic Sciences would include funds for the new Discovery and Understanding in Polar Oceans program; the NSF-wide Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) activities; and the NSF-wide Cyber-Infrastructure Framework for the 21st Century (CIF21) initiative. Also included are investments to enhance the efficiency, safety, and environmental footprint of activities at Summit Station in Greenland.

The polar icebreaking program operates under the Department of Homeland Security. The President's FY 2012 budget includes $39 million to support operation and maintenance of the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Healy and to prepare for the operational reactivation of CGC Polar Star. The Coast Guard plans to decommission CGC Polar Sea in FY2011 and transition her crew to the Polar Star facilitating her return to operations in FY 2013.

On 6 September 2011 the Senate Committee on Appropriations forwarded to the Senate floor their FY 2012 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes $39 million for the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker program. On 15 September 2011 the same committee passed a recommendation to fund NSF with $6.698 billion, approximately $162 million less than the level enacted for FY 2011 and $1.069 billion below the Administration's budget request.

In June 2011 the House of Representatives approved its appropriations committee's FY 2012 Homeland Security bill, which included $39 million for the Coast Guard's polar operations. In July 2011 the same committee recommended funding NSF at approximately the same level as enacted for FY 2011. The report's authors noted, "Compared to the amount requested by NSF for FY 2012, the funding level in the bill would lead to 2,200 fewer NSF grants and 26,000 fewer graduate students, undergraduate students, and teachers supported."

On 4 October 2011 Congress passed a second continuing appropriations act to keep government operations funded at FY 2011 levels until 18 November 2011 while it completes action on all appropriation bills for FY 2012. As of 3 November 2011, the Senate committee has completed work on 11 of the 12 bills required to fund federal agencies during FY 2012 and the House of Representatives had completed work on 9 of the 12 appropriation bills, recommending them for further action.

For more information, see the NSF Budget Division website: