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President Obama Releases FY 2011 Budget

Overall Freeze Proposed for Non-Security Discretionary Spending
President Obama released his FY 2011 budget proposal on Monday, February 1, 2010.  The President’s budget outline emphasizes jobs creation and deficit control, and would begin implementation of a three-year freeze in non-security spending announced by the President last week.  The President’s budget proposes $1.16 trillion in discretionary spending for FY 2011, including $719.2 billion for security-related spending (a 5.2% increase) and $441.3 billion for non-security spending (a 1.1% decrease).  While the budget amounts to an overall freeze for non-security accounts, it imposes no general holds on individual discretionary programs.  More than 126 programs were identified for termination or reduction, but others received significant increases, preserving the President’s priorities; for example, the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation were among agencies receiving boosts for STEM programs.
 
National Endowment for the Humanities faces $7.2 Million Proposed Cut for Programs
President Obama requested $161.3 million in FY 2011 funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.  This amounts to an overall decrease of $6.2 million (4.0%) from the FY 2010 enacted level of $167.5 million, although NEH is not on the White House list of “reductions.”  An increase in funds for Administration masks the actual impact of the budget proposal on Program funds, which would decrease by $7.2 million (5.6%), from $140.0 million in FY 2010 to $132.8 million in FY 2011.  
 
‘National’ Programs - According to the Alliance’s analysis, the Administration’s proposal constitutes a $5.3 million decrease for ‘national’ programs, the pool of funds available to support the NEH’s national, competitive grants.  Collectively, the line items in this category would decrease from the FY 2010 enacted level of $99.6 million to $94.3 million in FY 2011, a 5.7% cut.  The NEH Office of Digital Humanities, and the Divisions of Research, Preservation & Access, Education, and Public Programs would each be cut by $866,000.  Funding for the Office of Challenge Grants would remain unchanged.  Two smaller lines, Treasury Funds and Program Development, would each go down by $250,000.  The Obama Administration’s budget for NEH includes $2.5 million in first-time funds for “Bridging Cultures”, a new initiative announced by NEH Chairman Jim Leach in 2009.  This funding is offset by a decrease of $3.0 million for “We the People,” an initiative launched by President Bush in 2004 to foster understanding of U.S. history and culture.  Net funding for special initiatives would drop by $500,000.
 
State Humanities Councils, General Administration - Funding for the Federal/State Partnership would decrease by $1.9 million, from an appropriation of $40.4 million in FY 2010, to $38.5 in the FY 2011 budget (a 5.3% decrease).  Administration (salaries and expenses) would increase by $1.0 million, from $27.5 to $28.5 million in FY 2011 (a 3.8% increase).
 
Programmatic Detail in Budget Highlights Agency Priorities
The budget request for NEH also details several programmatic items of interest to the humanities community.  
 
Data –The NEH FY 2011 Budget commits to “Collect, analyze, and disseminate statistical information about the condition of the humanities”.  The budget plan does not provide a specific dollar amount, but it cites the agency's intentions to “enter into a partnership with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS)…to sustain and extend AAAS's developmental work on the Humanities Indicators project.”  The budget proposal also cites the agency’s authorizing legislation, acknowledging its (as yet) unfulfilled statutory obligations, and the importance of such activities to policy decisions:  “This project, which is responsive to NEH's legislative mandate to develop a "system of national information and data colle ction . . . on the humanities," is making a wide range of humanities data available to researchers, educators, and the general public. These data will equip policymakers and institutional administrators with statistical tools to help inform decision-making about primary and secondary education, higher education, the humanities workforce, levels and sources of humanities funding, public understanding of the humanities, and other areas of concern to the humanities community.”
 
Bridging Cultures – The NEH FY 2011 budget provides starter funds for Bridging Cultures, a new initiative “designed to bridge both space and time to help American citizens gain a deeper understanding of their own varied cultural heritage, as well as the history and culture of other nations.  It is not exactly clear how the $2.5 million in requested funds will be deployed, but it would appear to be a mix of targeted activities and general grants emphasis.  The intended scope of the program is certainly broad: to “reach diverse segments of the public in every state and U.S. territory”.  Institutions of higher education and state humanities councils are cited as intended partners in a series of conferences around the country, involving scholars and the public, “to discuss issues that divide us as Americans and that will help us understand the history, heritage, and cultures of peoples in countries around the world.”
 
Graduate Education – The budget request sends a signal of general support in reference to expansion of participant eligibility in the NEH’s seminar programs: “NEH has recently revised the eligibility criteria for summer seminars and institutes to create opportunities for humanities graduate students. Beginning in the summer of 2010, graduate students will be eligible to participate in these summer enrichment programs, which will extend and deepen their knowledge and understanding of the humanities. In higher education programs, two spaces in Summer Seminars and three spaces in Summer Institutes will be reserved, and in school teacher programs, the same numbers will be available for graduate students who intend to pursue K-12 teaching careers. This policy change, a response to suggestions from the humanities community, has been well received by project directors.”
 
Civility Tour – The budget proposal provides information on NEH Chairman Jim Leach’s recently begun 50-state American Civility Tour. “The tour is based on the assumption that if we do not try to understand and respect others, we cannot expect them to respect us, our values, and our way of life.”  Planned visits include a wide range of venues, from universities and museums, to veterans hospitals, local television, and radio.
 
The NEH’s detailed budget request can be downloaded from the NEH web site (110-page PDF).  An analysis of NEH funding at the programmatic level (compiled by the Alliance), for fiscal years 2009-2011, is below.
 

Related content: Budget & Appropriations, NEH, White House

funding chart-5
 Click on image to enlarge funding chart.