Computing Research Policy Blog

The Computing Research Association (or CRA) has been involved in shaping public policy of relevance to computing research for more than two decades. More recently the CRA Government Affairs program has enhanced its efforts to help the members of the computing research community contribute to the public debate knowledgeably and effectively.


President’s Budget Request Round-Up: NSF, NIST, NIH, and NASA Budgets Are All Cut


President Trump released his annual budget request last week. As we have done in years past, the CRA Policy Blog will be doing a series of posts on the assorted budget requests for key science agencies, particularly highlighting the ones that are of importance to the computing community.

As a reminder, Trump released a budget outline, nicknamed the “skinny budget,” back in March. That blueprint did not paint a good picture for the federally science agencies and, sadly, there weren’t any major changes in this full budget released earlier this week. Let’s get in the details.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF is the largest supporter of basic research in IT, accounting for 83 percent of the funding in the field. That fact makes the cuts to NSF generally, and the CISE Directorate specifically, very concerning.

Under the President’s budget request (PBR), NSF would receive an 11 percent cut, going from $7.47 billion in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Omnibus to $6.65 billion for FY18. That is an $819 million cut. The majority of that cut ($672 million) comes out of the Research and Related Activities (RRA) account, which is where the majority of the research that NSF funds is located. RRA goes from $6.03 billion in FY17 to $5.36 billion in the FY18 PBR. The other large part of the cut ($119 million) comes from the Education and Human Resources (EHR) account, which goes from $880 million in FY17 to $761 million in the FY18 PBR.

Drilling down into RRA, the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE), which handles NSF’s computer and computing research portfolio, fairs no better than the agency as a whole. CISE is slated to receive a 10.3 percent cut, going from $935 million in FY17 to $839 million, a cut of $96 million, in the President’s FY18 request.

For some insight into how NSF leadership decided what would need to be cut, it is worth reading this piece in Science by Jeffrey Mervis. To see how the CISE leadership plans to contend with this budget request, see their letter to the community.

FY17 Omnibus FY18 PBR $ Change % Change
NSF Total $7.47B $6.65B -$819M -11.0%
RRA $6.03B $5.36B -$672M -11.2%
EHR $880M $761M -$119M -13.5%
CISE $935M $839M -$96M -10.3%

National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)

NIST is slated to be hit particularly hard under the President’s request, receiving a 24.6 percent cut, going from $954 million to $725 million (a $237 million cut).

Of most interest to the computing research community is NIST’s 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 fairs only relatively better than the agency as a whole; receiving a 12.1 percent cut, going from $690 million in FY17 to $600 million in the FY18 PBR (a $89 million cut). The rest of the cut to the agency’s budget comes out of the Industrial Technology Services (ITS) account, which is effectively eliminated.

FY17 Omnibus FY18 PBR $ Change % Change
NIST Total $954M $725M -$237M -24.6%
STRS $954M $600M -$89M -12.1%

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH gets hit nearly as hard as NIST, as a percentage of their budget. The agency is requesting a FY18 budget of $26.9 billion, a 21.2 percent cut from their FY17 budget ($34.1 billion, or a $7.2 billion cut).

FY17 Omnibus FY18 PBR $ Change % Change
NIH Total $34.1B $26.9B -$7.2B -21.2%

NASA

NASA is the relative winner in the President Budget Request, being slated to receive only a 2.6 percent cut. While not a historically large supporter of basic IT research, NASA’s Science account is still important to track. At the top line number, NASA would receive $19.1 billion for FY18 under the President’s plan; that would e a cut of $561 million from the FY17 budget. The Science account would fair slightly better than the agency as a whole, with a 1.1 percent cut; the budget would be $5.71 billion for FY18, a $53 million dollar cut from FY17 levels ($5.77 billion).

FY17 Omnibus FY18 PBR $ Change % Change
NASA Total $19.6B $19.1B -$561M -2.6%
Science $5.77B $5.71B -$53M -1.1%

Final Analysis

As we said on Tuesday, these cuts are very bad. At the NSF’s public rollout of their budget request (the only science agency to do a public rollout), the recurring line used by the agency’s leadership is that the PBR is, “the first step in the (budget) process.” And while that is true, the PBR tends to set the tone for the proceeding steps, which only makes the impact of this request worse.

The good news is many Congressional leaders have already said that Congress will take a different track with the budget they will produce. As an example, there was pretty quick dismissal of the President’s NIH request. This is good to hear, but the rest of the Federal science investment will need to be protected as well. Considering three of the agencies (NSF, NIST, and NASA) covered in this article are in the same appropriation subcommittee bill (the Commerce, Justice, Science, or CJS, subcommittee), will only further hamper efforts to avoid these cuts.

Put simply: the community needs to get out and sing the praises of these science agencies. Now would be a good time to join CRA’s Computing Research Advocacy Network (CRAN), if you’re not already a member. A good place to start is with your home Representative and two Senators. We’ll keep track as the process unfolds in Congress, so please checking back for updates.

President’s Budget Request Round-Up: NSF, NIST, NIH, and NASA Budgets Are All Cut