The 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act:
Early Indications of Federal Statistical Agencies’ Budgets

January 20, 2014

On Friday evening, January 17, President Obama signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. This Act is an omnibus spending package that provides funding for federal government missions, agencies, and programs through September 30, 2014.

Steve Pierson of the American Statistical Association has developed a table of preliminary funding levels for a number of federal statistical agencies:

The numbers in Steve’s table do not represent final operating funds for the agencies. With the President having approved the allocation, Cabinet level and other agencies will be making decisions of their own about whether to supplement or take small cuts from appropriated amounts to cover non-statistical programs that ended up short. They can rearrange funding among programs without having to get approval, as long as internal budget cuts are a minor percent of the appropriated level. And, the Act gives discretion to certain agencies (such as the Department of Labor) to add “up to” a legislated amount to, in the Labor example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While some uncertainty continues, the Congressional decisions indicate some support for federal statistics, though to varying degrees across major agencies.

• All federal statistical agencies clearly specified in the bill are receiving appropriations that exceed last year’s post-sequestration funding.
• That said, only the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) are receiving appropriated funds that substantially exceed their 2012 appropriations.
• Those we know about at this point receiving direct 2014 appropriations at levels lower than appropriated in FY2012 are the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

BLS and the Census Bureau will have to make tough decisions about where to trim costs. In doing so, they are restrained either or both by the Act having set funding levels for particular activities, or by mandates that certain programs must be continued regardless of funding levels.

Even for those agencies whose appropriations are restored to 2012 levels (which are above 2013 levels), decisions need to be made about what can and cannot be sustained. First, costs have risen since 2012, and given increases in the minimum wage in some jurisdictions, the purchasing power of a dollar has declined in the last two years. Thus, we should anticipate changes based on priorities the statistical agencies have already lain out.

Stay tuned. More comprehensive and up-to-date total agency budgets will become available over the next few weeks. And the consequences for data users will become more and more clear.