House panel cuts Census Bureau and BJS FY12 budgets; Holds NSF and BEA budgets level

By Steve Pierson posted 07-12-2011 13:46

[7/14 update: The House Appropriations Committee marked up the CJS bill on 7/13. Except for a 0.1% cut to the Census Bureau and other Commerce accounts to restore some funding for NOAA, there were no changes to accounts discussed below.]

The House appropriations panel that oversees the budget for BEA, BJS, Census and NSF last week released its draft bill, revealing sharp cuts for BJS and Census and level funding for NSF and BEA.

ASA President Elect Bob Rodriguez wrote the Appropriations Committee, which is scheduled to take up the bill July 13, in support of the NSF and BEA budgets and requesting that the Census and BJS cuts be reversed. ASA also issued a press release on the ASA response to the draft FY12 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies appropriations bill. In addition, the ASA joined more than 38 other organizations on a letter to Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, Ranking Member Norm Dicks and Members urging restoration of the Census Bureau budget to the FY12 request level.

The NSF was funded at $6.86 billion in the draft House CJS bill, the same level as FY11, well short of the $7.77 billion FY12 request level. While it is disappointing the House CJS appropriations subcommittee didn't increase NSF budget, flat funding should be considered a victory in this environment. The House CJS Committee had to trim its overall funding level by $3 billion from the FY11 level to $50.5 billion. An inspection at the CJS FY11-FY12 comparison table reveals a plethora of cuts across the bill. The most likely scenario for better funding for NSF (and other CJS agencies) is more funding for the CJS bill overall.

The story is similar for BEA, which was funded at $93 million, the same level as FY11 but much below the FY12 request of $108 million. (See "FY12 Statistical Agency Budget Developments" blog entry for a table with statistical agency budget entries.)

The House CJS draft bill funds the Census Bureau at $856 million, well below the FY12 request level of $1.025 billion and the FY11 level of $1.150 billion. If enacted, it is believed that this cut would mean the termination of a major program like the Economic Census, the quinquennial survey next occurring in 2012.

The FY12 BJS budget is cut by 22% to $47 million, thereby reversing the FY10 increases to improve the National Crime Victimization Survey.

In his letter supporting the NSF and BEA budgets and urging reversal of the BJS and Census cuts, Rodriguez states in part,
NSF funding supports the research that fuels American innovation, which, in turn, drives economic growth and job creation. Cuts to science research funding undermine America’s future economic growth.

The economic statistical agencies (BEA, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Census Bureau) provide the data to help navigate economic recovery and the ultra-competitive global market. Cuts to these agencies would seriously impair our decisionmaking ability.

I understand the difficulty of the current fiscal environment, but cuts to the Census Bureau’s budget will cost taxpayers billions of dollars in the long run, and in these times, it is even more imperative that taxpayer money be well directed. Planning for the 2020 Census is well under way at the Census Bureau, and Director Groves is committed to capping the cost of the 2020 Census for a housing unit at the 2010 level. The GAO concurs that the bureau’s plans and innovations in technology and statistical techniques have the potential to save billions of dollars and improve accuracy. Furthermore, because census data guide more than half a trillion dollars in federal assistance, action that undermines such data could prevent this assistance from reaching places where it would be most helpful.

The 22% cut to BJS will reverse the improvement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) that Congress began funding in FY10. This additional funding was intended to reverse the decline in critical information needed by law enforcement officials and policymakers to aid public safety. Because BJS is the only reliable provider of nationally available data on crime and victimization, drastically cutting its budget by $13 million will impair our ability to monitor crime in the United States.
The House CJS draft bill is just the first step in determining the FY12 budgets for these agencies. Because their budgets can be cut at any stage, it's important to keep communicating to Congress the important roles NSF and the statistical agencies play in our economy and society.

The next House step is full Appropriations Committee consideration (July 13) and then floor consideration. Watch the Comment space below and the ASA Community Blog space for further updates.

See also:


09-20-2011 11:22

Andrew Reamer has posted a 9/19 guest blog entry at the Policy Forum on called, The Quality of Economic Statistics is About to Erode: (This link is also in the Related Links section above.

09-02-2011 09:26

The NYTimes last week published an editorial, "Do They Want to Know Less?", in which they make a compelling case for opposing the House cuts to the Census Bureau and continuing the Economic Census. A link to this piece is in the section above, "Related Links." One key line is, "Without such data, business leaders, investors and policy makers would be flying blind."
The "" link is to an op-ed titled, "By the numbers: Is basic research worth it?" in the Austin, Tx paper.