Smithsonian budget restores most of sequester cuts


The Smithsonian gets $805 million for fiscal 2014. (AP)

The Smithsonian Institution announced an $805 million federal appropriation for fiscal year 2014, a $30 million increase over its 2013 sequester-addled budget.

The appropriation, part of the $1.1 trillion spending bill signed Friday by President Obama, is less than the administration requested in April and slightly less than in years past, but it represents a partial restoration of the roughly $41 million in cuts triggered by sequestration last year. And it takes away the threat of $65 million more in sequestration cuts, which might have meant furloughs this year.

Smithsonian funding had been fixed at 2012’s roughly $815 million levels through a series of continuing budget resolutions before sequestration dropped that number to about $775 million last year. The cuts, which began in March, froze hiring and delayed repairs, maintenance and equipment purchases. They also forced a reduction in a security contract, which closed portions of exhibition space at the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Museum of African Art and the Smithsonian Castle.

The new appropriation represents a return to more normal budgeting levels and processes. It removes the short-term threat of another government shutdown like the one that shuttered Smithsonian museums for more than two weeks in October, shortened and delayed the openings of exhibitions and disappointed thousands of visitors.

The budget includes $12.7 million for increases in fixed costs, such as federal salaries, utilities and rents. It includes a mandatory 1 percent pay increase for federal employees.

The appropriation allots $34.3 million for staffing, inaugural exhibitions and programming for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is to open in late 2015. Another $55 million of capital funds are earmarked for the museum’s construction. In addition, $158 million will go to projects that include renovations to the National Museum of American History, electrical and mechanical work at the National Museum of Natural History and projects at the National Zoo.

A total of $1.7 million is appropriated for digitizing the collection in an effort to help broaden visitor access, a priority of Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough.

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