APS News

May 2022 (Volume 31, number 5)

FYI: Science Policy News From AIP

Biden Repeats Bid to Boost Science Budgets

By Mitch Ambrose

President Biden’s budget request for fiscal year 2023 seeks increased funding across the board for non-defense science agencies, with an emphasis on those connected to his priorities in climate change mitigation, clean energy R&D, manufacturing, and technology. He is also seeking $5 billion for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, which was established through the final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2022 with an initial budget of $1 billion.

The request sets the stage for the House and Senate to advance their own spending legislation, which is apt to depart significantly from Biden’s request. In its appropriation for fiscal year 2022, Congress significantly scaled back his proposals to boost funding for non-defense science agencies and reversed cuts he proposed to defense research programs following bipartisan negotiations.

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With its new request, the administration is trying again to secure major budget increases for agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Science programs that do not address administration priorities would receive smaller increases or even slight cuts under the request, and early-stage research programs at the Department of Defense would be pared back.

The administration proposes increasing NSF’s budget nearly 20% to $10.5 billion, similar to the amount sought last year. Although Congress did greenlight the agency’s proposed Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP), it ultimately only provided NSF a 4% topline budget increase for fiscal year 2022, giving it little room to start new activities.

The administration proposes increasing NSF’s budget nearly 20% to $10.5 billion, similar to the amount sought last year. Although Congress did greenlight the agency’s proposed Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP), it ultimately only provided NSF a 4% topline budget increase for fiscal year 2022, giving it little room to start new activities.

The administration now requests $880 million for the TIP directorate, of which $200 million would go to creating “Regional Innovation Engines” across the country, with the mandate to “catalyze new business and economic growth in those regions of America that have not fully participated in the technology boom of the past several decades.” Among NSF’s existing research directorates, proposed increases range from 10% over fiscal year 2021 levels for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate to around 20% each for its Geosciences, Engineering, and Biological Sciences Directorates.

The DOE Office of Science budget would increase 4% to $7.8 billion, building on the 6% increase just approved by Congress. Within the office, the Biological and Environmental Research program budget would increase 11%, in part to fund a “virtual” national laboratory dedicated to climate and a newly established climate modeling program focused on urban environments. Increases for other programs would range from 5% for Basic Energy Sciences to only 1% for Fusion Energy Sciences, despite pending congressional proposals to rapidly expand programs across the Office of Science.

There are, though, some new activities planned across Office of Science programs, including three new initiatives focused respectively on building research capacity at minority-serving institutions, achieving “Earthshot” technology maturation goals, and supporting technology-oriented science more broadly.

NIST’s budget would increase nearly 20% to $1.5 billion in support of priorities such as quantum information science, artificial intelligence, restarting the agency’s research reactor, and addressing a large backlog of deferred maintenance at other agency buildings.

Notably, Congress provided NIST with a nearly 20% budget boost for the current fiscal year but most of the new money is for earmarks, a practice Congress revived after a decade long moratorium. Many of the earmarks are tangential to the agency’s mission, the largest of which is a $60 million upgrade to the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in the home state of Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL).

Congress will likely begin to unveil its counterproposals to Biden’s new budget in late spring or early summer.

Mitch Ambrose is Director of FYI.

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May 2022 (Volume 31, number 5)

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FYI: Science Policy News From AIP
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