NSF’s Budget Request Flat for FY15

On March 25, 2014, in Funding, FY15 Appropriations, by Peter Harsha

Given the relatively austere budget caps for FY2015 the President and Congress agreed to as part of last December’s budget agreement, the President’s relatively flat budget request for the National Science Foundation in FY2015 isn’t unexpected. In fact, the President’s request for NSF would have the agency grow just 1 percent over FY14 (to $7.3 billion), while research at the agency would actually decrease by $3 million under the President’s plan ($5.191 billion in FY14 vs. $5.188 billion in FY15).CISEBudgetFY15

Funding for NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate, the home of the great bulk of NSF’s computing research and infrastructure investments, follows a similar trajectory in the President’s budget. Under the President’s plan, the CISE budget would remain at essentially the same level ($893 million) as in FY14 ($894 million). Coming after two years in which CISE did disproportionately “well” in the budget calculus, this flat budget is a little easier to bear. But it does mean that CISE AD Farnam Jahanian had to do a little reshuffling to protect priorities within the CISE budget. In particular, the directorate’s contributions to a number of cross-agency initiatives would be scaled back somewhat in order to take care of “core” research funding within the directorate.

In his letter to the computing research community, Jahanian noted four areas of priority within the directorate request: expansions of CISE foundational research; investments in crosscutting programs led by CISE; investments in advanced cyberinfrastructure, and education and workforce development.

In addition to CISE’s investments in its core foundational research, the directorate will remain a player in a number of key cross-agency programs, albeit in a slightly reduced role in some cases. Here are some details:

Cyber Enabled Materials, Manufacturing, and Smart Systems (CEMMSS): This is a $213 million program across the Foundation geared towards accelerating advances in “21st century smart engineered systems.” CISE’s investment of $81.5 million in FY15 (down from $85 million in FY14) would focus on advanced manufacturing, cyber physical systems, the National Robotics Initiative, Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP) and their interaction and synthesis.

Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21): The Foundation would spend $125 million across all the major research directorates in FY15, with CISE contributing $80 million (down from $85 million in FY14). CISE’s focus includes work on Big Data, data infrastructure building blocks, building new computational and data-enabled science and engineering research communities, advancing new computational infrastructure and building partnerships.

Cognitive Science and Neuroscience: NSF’s contribution to the White House’s BRAIN initiative (with NSF, NIH and DARPA), would be $29 million foundation-wide in FY15. CISE would contribute $5.65 million vs. $3.5 million in FY14. CISE’s focus is on addressing the challenges of research integration across multiple scales and builds on ongoing NSF investments like the Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience collaboration with NIH, Germany and France.

Innovation Corps (I-Corps): The Foundation would invest $25 million in this program designed to accelerate innovations from the lab to the market. CISE’s contribution would grow to $10 million (up from $8 million in FY14), and Jahanian noted that given the level of interest in the program from the community, the directorate could easily invest twice as much.

Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC): The Foundation would spend $100 million on SaTC in FY15 under the President’s plan, and $67 million of that investment would be in the CISE directorate. The focus of CISE’s effort in this space is to support fundamental scientific advances and technologies to protect cyber-systems from malicious behavior, while preserving privacy and promoting usability.

Jahanian’s presentation from the NSF budget roll-out goes into additional detail about these programs and the other efforts the directorate plans for FY15, and the official justification to Congress contains even more detail. The President’s “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” — his supplemental budget request, should Congress feel the need to spend more than the caps they agreed to — includes $552 million in new spending for NSF, some of which would find its way into CISE for investments in cybersecurity, clean energy/sustainable computing, and core research activities. However, this is essentially dead on arrival in Congress. Sorry.

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NIST FY15 Request

On March 20, 2014, in FY15 Appropriations, by Brian Mosley

In our continuing series on the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) Presidential Budget request, we next come to NIST, or the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST is on the smaller size of the science agencies, budget-authority-speaking, but it is still a significant contributor for IT research.

The main part of the agency that CRA is concerned about is the Scientific and Technical Research and Services account, or STRS. This part of the agency’s budget handles the research grants, special programs, and laboratory operations of NIST. STRS is slated to receive $680 million in the president’s budget, which represents a 4.5 percent increase over the FY14 enacted levels.

The increases will go to a number of special programs that the Administration has marked as vital to the national interest. Three of these increases are in areas that are of particular concern to members of CRA. For example, the Administration is interested in increasing its investment in the “Advanced Cyber-Physical Systems for National Priorities” program. This program focuses on Cyber-physical systems, or CPSs, which, “combine the cyber and physical worlds with technologies that can respond in real time to their environments and incoming data.” CPSs were identified as a national priority for Federal R&D by PCAST. The increase in funding would be $7.5 million, bringing the total amount for the program to $11.7 million.

As well, there is a suggested increase of $5 million, for a total of $18.8 million, for the Materials Genome Initiative, “an interagency effort to dramatically influence the pace for bringing new materials to market (Found here in the Executive Summary). Through this program, “NIST is developing infrastructure to support innovation in advanced materials, including data assessment and validation, data standards and modeling and simulation tools.”

The last program of note to our readers would be the NIST’s request for $6 million to develop laboratory-to-market strategies that accelerate commercialization of federal technologies. NIST has government-wide responsibilities for ensuring that taxpayer-funded technologies are transitioned to the marketplace. Congress and the Administration have taken a particular interest in technology transfer in recent years, hoping that it will translate into jobs and economic growth.

So, on the whole, NIST is doing relatively well in the President’s Request; no serious cuts and healthy increases, for the current budget environment. We’ll have to keep a close eye on the agency as the budget process moves forward, but things are looking ok so far.

As we mentioned, President Obama released his budget request for the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) on Tuesday. We’ll be doing a series of posts on the assorted agencies’ budgets that are important to the computing research community. The first agency that we want to highlight is the Department of Energy (DOE), as they released their top line numbers on March 4th (most of the other science agencies are releasing their numbers next week).

Two key parts of the agency for the computing community are the Office of Science (SC), home of most of the agency’s basic research support, and ARPA-E. For SC, the office would only see a 0.9 percent increase from FY14 to FY15 (going from $5.07B to $5.11B). However, that small overall increase masks significant gains for the subaccount that matters most to computing researchers: ASCR or Advanced Scientific Computing Research. ASCR would see a significant increase in funding, going up by 13.2 percent (or $478M in FY14 to $571M in FY15). Much of the justification for this increase is tagged to work on achieving exascale computing, application of high performance computer simulation and modeling, and operations & upgrades to ASCR facilities. ASCR would receive the largest increase within DOE SC’s request. This is obviously good, but the details are important, and we should get those soon.

As for ARPA-E (or Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy), it would see a large increase of 16.1 percent (or $280M in FY14 to $325M in FY15). This increase is to support, “transformational energy R&D…as part of a $5.2 billion DOE investment in clean energy technology programs.” While this number is encouraging, it is important to note that a large increase in ARPA-E’s budget has been a regular occurrence with Obama Administration budget requests over the years. And Congress doesn’t have a good record of passing those suggested increases. In the FY14 Omnibus, for example, the agency received just enough funding to roll back much of what it had lost to the sequester in FY13 ($275M in FY12; $252M in FY13; and $280M in FY14) but still fell well short of the President’s request for FY14 ($379M).

It is both important, and not important, to note that the President has signaled DOE as a major agency in his “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative,” or his wish list of programs that ought to receive extra funding beyond the FY15 budget caps. It is important because it demonstrates that the Administration is still concerned about scientific research. However, it is not important because the Initiative is dead on arrival with Congress. Whether this is good or bad, to paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, “depends greatly on a certain point of view.”

To sum up, the President’s DOE request is good news for the computing research community, at least at the top line level. Remember, detailed budget info has not been released yet and, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. As more information is released, we’ll be posting it here, so stay tuned.

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