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Fiscal Health | Washington State University

Office of Research response

November 1, 2017

Hello All:

I’m writing regarding President Schulz’s message last week on the university’s budget situation (see email below). As President Schulz indicated, the university overall has been running an annual deficit of approximately $30 million. This deficit needs to be eliminated over time, with the initial step being to reduce spending by approximately $10M in the current fiscal year (FY2018). This works out to a spending reduction of 2.5% this fiscal year for each WSU unit. (For OR, this amounts to a spending decrease of $217 thousand.) In this note I’ll describe our general approach to budget in the Office of Research, and actions taken by the OR senior leadership team to address our 2.5% reduction.

The mission of the Office of Research is to advance the university’s research, scholarship, and creativity agenda system-wide in support of the Drive to 25 and other WSU goals. We do this largely by supporting the outstanding WSU faculty, staff, and students engaged in the research enterprise. Over the past year, you all have done an outstanding job accomplishing this mission. Some of our accomplishments including developing and submitting over $1 billion in grant proposals for the first time, improving our effectiveness and responsiveness with respect to compliance, advancing our research capabilities via activities such as the Strategic Reallocation projects and advanced computing, and enhancing our activities in the area of industrial engagement and commercialization. You should all be proud of these accomplishments!

In performing this work, I and the OR senior leadership team have continually managed our budget, workforce, and internal capabilities so as to focus on high priority needs. We will continue this approach as we deal with the 2.5% reduction. Specifically, we will not implement an “across the board” cut in OR. Rather, we will meet the 2.5% goal by a mix of efficiency measures and deferring hiring. Approximately 60% of the reduction will be taken by enhancing efficiency of our operations in specific units and thereby reducing costs. The remainder will be taken by deferring required hiring. We are also taking a multi-year approach to the situation to ensure the OR budget remains sustainable in the long run. Please also note that historically OR has run about even each year, i.e. our office neither contributes to or reduces the University’s overall deficit.

One very important point: Please note we are facing a reduced spending authority as opposed to a budget reduction. In particular, funds saved from the above actions will be kept in OR so as to improve the university’s overall financial position, rather than transferred to the central budget for use elsewhere in the university. This will place our office in a better position to support growth of the research enterprise once the university’s overall budget deficit situation is resolved.

Finally, we will all work together to continuously reduce spending by:

  • Reducing or deferring travel and other non-essential operating expenses.
  • Discontinuing services that are not fully meeting constituent needs.
  • Consolidating services to reduce duplication and cost, and to gain efficiency.
  • Hiring only when essential, and holding positions open as long as possible.

Many of you I’m sure have good ideas on how to reduce spending in a smart way—please communicate those suggestions to your unit leaders.
The OR senior leadership team will continue to work closely together to reduce spending in an efficient and effective manner that enables us to support your outstanding work and the WSU research enterprise.

Thank you for your support as we deal with this budget situation. I will continue to provide updates on the budget situation via our “All Hands” meetings and other means. Please contact your unit director, Mary Frei, or me if you have specific question or wish to discuss this further. Thank you again for your dedication and hard work!


Christopher J. Keane
Vice President for Research
Professor of Physics