2012 budget request released

Today the Obama Administration will release its FY 2012 budget request to Congress, including the Smithsonian Institution’s request.  Below are a few key aspects of the request that will become public today.

The administration’s FY 2012 budget request to Congress is $861.5 million, an increase from the $761 million appropriated to the Institution in fiscal year 2010. The Smithsonian, like all federal organizations, has been operating this year on a continuing resolution that holds the budget at the FY 2010 level. The Salaries and Expenses request for FY 2012 is $636.5 million (nearly the same as 2010) and the Facilities Capital budget is $225 million, which includes $125 million for the construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Unlocking the mysteries of the universe

I am pleased that within the Salaries and Expense account we were able to reflect priorities related to our Strategic Plan.  For example, the budget request supports the four grand challenges outlined in the strategic plan:

•     $100,000 for research related to Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe.

•    $1.65 million for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet, which includes $750,000 for a global change research program and $300,000 for the Encyclopedia of Life project to list all the world’s known species online.

•    $500,000 for Understanding the American Experience which, along with previous funding, enables the Smithsonian to better document and present the diverse cultures that have become part of American culture.

•    Valuing World Cultures will rely on previous funding to conduct research in history and art of the world’s cultures.

Understanding and sustaining a biodiverse planet

One of the key components of the strategic plan is broadening access to Smithsonian collections, exhibitions and outreach programs. This will be accomplished through new media, digitizing the collections and using social networking tools. A total of $500,000 will be added to this year’s request for digitizing the collections ($400,000) and supporting web and new media projects ($100,000).

Additional funds for Collections have also been included in the FY 2012 request ($500,000) to support collections care and preservation at the National Museum of Natural History and to care for the living collection of animals at the National Zoo.

Understanding the American experience

Maintenance funds are part of the Salaries and Expenses account; this year, the Institution requested total funding of $72 million to take care of current and deferred maintenance needs.

I want to remind you that the FY 2012 budget request also includes $3.5 million of Unit-submitted programmatic reductions. These reductions helped us free up resources to apply to higher priority areas of the Strategic Plan while meeting the budget reduction guidance given to us by OMB. Some of these reductions may receive congressional and public attention when they are announced:

  • The Kids Farm at the National Zoo will close, likely in late spring (-$250K).
  • A visitors services program with paid staff will be replaced by a volunteer program at the National Museum of the American Indian to redirect resources toward research and other higher priority programs at the museum (-$500K).
  • The repatriation program at the National Museum of Natural History will be reduced but full staff remains in place to fulfill our commitment to American Indian tribes requesting returns of sacred objects (-$800K).

Valuing world cultures

In addition, these reductions will be made in the following areas:

  • Instruments development and science programs at SAO (-350K)
  • Avionics research at NASM (-150K)
  • Research at STRI (-300K)
  • Funding for desktop computer replacements (-500K)
  • Research equipment and collections care pools (-700K)

Of course what is released today is just a starting point in the FY 2012 process and we have a long way to go before we know what will happen in terms of our final federal budget for FY 2012.  We should remain optimistic that our hard work and good programs will serve us well during the budget process.

The Smithsonian’s complete budget justification will be available on PRISM tomorrow (Tuesday, February 15).

Posted: 14 February 2011
About the Author:

Wayne Clough is the 12th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Since beginning his tenure in July 2008, Secretary Clough has overseen several major openings at the Smithsonian, including the Sant Ocean Hall at the Museum of Natural History and the reopening of the American History Museum. He has initiated long-range planning for the Institution that will define the Smithsonian’s focus for the future. More about Secretary Clough...