This Article is published in the January 2010 issue

Congress Approves Increases for Science, Computing Research

Final Budgets Still Fall Short of President’s Request

By Peter Harsha

Computing research programs at the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science are among those slated for increases in fiscal year 2010, thanks to appropriations legislation that would keep those agencies on a path to double their budgets over the next six years. Congress approved the last of twelve annual appropriations bills necessary to fund the operations of government on December 18, providing a healthy increase to the NSF budget, a more modest increase to DOE’s Office of Science, and a slight increase in real terms for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Basic research at the Department of Defense also will see an increase in FY 2010, though the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will see a 4.5 percent decrease over concerns raised by Senate appropriators about management issues at the agency.

While these science agencies will see budget increases in FY 2010, in each case the approved increase falls short of the President’s requested budget for FY 2010 for that agency. Typically, congressional appropriators use the shortfall between what the President requested and what they appropriate to pay for congressionally directed projects (also known as “earmarks”) to provide increases Congress believes the Administration wrongly failed to request for other agencies or programs.

National Science Foundation

Funding for NSF will grow to $6.93 billion in FY 2010, an increase of 6.7 percent over FY 20091, but $118 million lower than the President’s requested budget for the agency. Included in that increase is an even larger percentage increase for NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate. CISE will receive $620 million in FY 2010—less than the $633 million requested by the President. but 8.1 percent greater than the FY 2009 budget.

NSF’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI) also fared well in the final appropriation, receiving $215 million in FY 2010. This represents an increase of 7.7 percent over FY 2009, but below the President’s requested increase of 10 percent.

NSF’s Education and Human Resources directorate received $873 million for FY 2010, an increase of 6 percent over FY 2009 and $15 million more than the President’s request.

Department of Energy’s Office of Science

On October 28, 2009 Congress finished work on the FY 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (P.L. 111-85) containing funding for DOE’s Office of Science. The Office received just over $4.8 billion in core funding, an increase of 3 percent compared to FY 2009, plus an additional $77 million in congressionally directed spending. The appropriation includes funding for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, which will receive $394 million in FY 2010, an increase of nearly 7 percent over FY 2009.

National Institute of Standards and Technology

NIST will receive $603 million for its core research efforts in FY 2010, an increase of 9.6 percent compared to FY 2009. Included in that funding is nearly $58 million in congressionally directed programs. Removing that earmarked spending results in a real decrease of 1.0 percent compared to FY 2009—a level below the Administration’s requested funding level of $637 million.

Department of Defense

The FY 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill includes funding for all DOD research, including DARPA and the Defense research labs. In the run-up to the final bill, there was some significant concern in the science community about the levels included for DARPA in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, but particularly for the Senate levels. Both the House and Senate included significant cuts to the President’s request for DARPA—the House trimmed $200 million from the request, the Senate about $500 million. In the Senate’s case, appropriations staffers indicated they did not feel that the agency, given its recent history of under-spending its appropriation—a behavior linked to the agency’s previous leadership—warranted an increase in FY 2010, and instead used that money to fund increases elsewhere in their bill. CRA, along with many other groups in the science advocacy community, reacted strongly to this reduction. Under new leadership, the agency appears to be making a serious effort to reverse many of the policies that generated the concerns that the university community and Congress shared, and has proposed a number of new efforts designed to re-engage DARPA with university researchers, we argued. We did not want to see this new approach derailed or hamstrung by the proposed reduction, and we joined with other members of the community to weigh in with Congress in an attempt to mitigate the reduction. That effort proved only partially successful, as the final bill funds DARPA at a $246 million reduction from the requested level for FY 2010.

Overall, defense basic research (6.1 research, in DOD parlance), will increase $1.8 billion in FY 2010, an increase of 10.1 percent over FY 2009.

The final resolution of the FY 2010 appropriations process was delayed considerably as debate in both the House and Senate over comprehensive health care reform legislation consumed nearly all the available legislative “bandwidth” throughout the fall. This same bandwidth constraint also affected the movement of a number of other research-related pieces of legislation. In May, the House passed the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act (H.R. 2020), a bill designed to reauthorize much of the existing federal Networking and IT R&D program, and enact some of the recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology, stemming from their review of the NITRD program.2 However, the bill has yet to be considered in the Senate, primarily because of time constraints. In November, the House Science and Technology Committee passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 4061)3, which reauthorizes much of the federal cyber security research program. However, that bill has yet to make it to the floor of the House for a vote and faces a very uncertain future in the Senate.

For a full breakdown of all the final spending numbers, and continuing updates on the progress of bills of interest to the computing research community, see CRA’s Computing Research Policy Blog at

End Notes 

1 Each reference to FY 2009 budgets omits the substantial increases that year provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided a one-time, though quite significant, funding influx to these science agencies. Comparisons are to the non-ARRA, baseline FY 09 funding.
2For more detail on H.R. 2020, see
3For more detail on H.R. 4061, see