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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So, the good news this year was that the President and Congress were working from the same set of numbers for the first time in a long time. The bad news is that those numbers are pretty underwhelming. The President introduced his FY15 budget request today, a budget that would remain largely flat — increasing discretionary spending just $2 billion over FY14 ($1.014 trillion in FY15 vs. $1.012 trillion in FY14). NSF would grow just 1 percent (to $7.3 billion) under the “base budget” in the President’s plan. Research at NSF would actually decrease $3 million under the President’s plan ($5.191 billion in FY14 vs. $5.188 billion in FY15). (We’ll have lots more information about NSF’s budget request next Monday when the agency rolls out its detailed budget justification.)

Recognizing that the agreed-to budget caps were overly constraining for all the Administration’s priorities, the President included a $52 billion “wish list” of additional funding proposals — called the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” — that includes increased funding for key science agencies that could be offset by cuts to farm subsidy programs, tax increases on “multi-million dollar retirement accounts,” and other spending cuts and tax increases identified by the Administration. Were that wish list to be approved by Congress, NSF could see an additional $552 million in funding (and R&D agencies overall would see an increase of $5.3 billion) However, congressional Republicans have already declared the wish list DOA.

Funding for other agencies in the President’s base budget is a bit of a mixed bag:

  • DOE basic and applied research would be up 6.1 percent in the President’s plan ($8.412 billion in FY 15 vs. $7.932 billion in FY14)
  • DOD basic and applied research would see an increase of 4.4 percent ($6.582 billion vs. $6.307 billion
  • NIST basic and applied research would increase 3.3 percent ($598 million vs $579 million)
  • NIH basic and applied research would increase 0.7 percent ($29.403 billion vs. $29.205 billion)
  • Homeland Security basic and applied research would decrease 1 percent ($250 million vs. $251 million).

Keep in mind that the expected inflation rate between FY 2014 and FY 2015 is about 2 percent.

The White House has released an R&D Budget Fact sheet that goes into some of the details.

But we’ll learn more about the agency priorities as the agencies roll out their own budget request over the next week or so.

As always, we’ll have the details as we learn them!

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The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have just released their drafts (House – Senate) of the FY2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill, and the numbers look pretty decent for NSF and NIST.

Short version: NSF would see an increase of 4.3 percent overall in FY13; NIST would see increases of $54-56 million to its core research accounts; NASA would see cuts.

Here are the slightly more detailed summaries (HouseSenate):

On NSF, from the House –

National Science Foundation (NSF) – The legislation funds NSF at $7.3 billion, which is $299 million above fiscal year 2012 and $41 million below the President’s request. NSF’s entire increase is provided to core research and education activities, which are critical to innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for an advanced manufacturing science initiative and for research in cyber-security and cyber-infrastructure.

That’s a 4.3 percent increase over FY12, 1 percent less than the President’s Budget Request. NSF’s Research and Related Activities Account would receive a 4.5 percent increase in the bill.

From the Senate –

National Science Foundation (NSF) — The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $7.3 billion, an increase of $240 million above the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.

Same overall level.

On NIST, from the House –

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST is funded at $830 million in the bill, which is $79 million above fiscal year 2012 and $27 million below the President’s request. Within this total, important core research activities to help advance U.S. competitiveness, innovation, and economic growth are increased by $54 million above fiscal year 2012. In addition, the bill includes $128 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program – which provides training and technical assistance to U.S. manufacturers – and $21 million for an Advanced Manufacturing competitive research initiative.

From the Senate –

 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST is funded at $826 million, which is $75 million above the fiscal year 2012 enacted level. The bill provides an increase of $56 million for NIST’s laboratories and technical research while maintaining strong support with industry partners including $128.5 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $14.5 million for the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech)

So, both have healthy increases for NIST core research.

NASA doesn’t fare as well in the House. On NASA, from the House –

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $17.6 billion in the bill, which is $226 million below fiscal year 2012 and $138 million below the President’s request. This funding includes:

  • $3.7 billion for Exploration – $59 million below fiscal year 2012. This includes funding to keep NASA on schedule for upcoming Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System flight milestones and to maintain progress in a reconfigured commercial crew program.
  • $4 billion for Space Operations – $249 million below fiscal year 2012. The legislation will continue the closeout of the Space Shuttle program for a savings of $503 million.
  • $5.1 billion for NASA Science programs – $5 million above fiscal year 2012. This includes $1.4 billion for planetary science to ensure the continuation of critical research and development programs that were imperiled by the President’s request. This also includes $628 million, as requested, for the James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA research also sees cuts in the Senate bill –

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $19.4 billion, an  increase of $1.6 billion over the fiscal year 2012 enacted level. The large increase results from a reorganization of operational weather satellite procurement from NOAA into NASA. Without the funds for weather satellite procurement, this level represents a $41.5 million cut from the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.

The bill provides $5 billion for Science which is $69 million less than fiscal year 2012. Within Science, the bill restores $100 million of a proposed cut to robotic Mars science programs, resulting in a total of $461 million for Mars robotic science.

So, on the whole, good news for the agencies we care most about in this bill, except for NASA. The bills have some marked differences in the way they treat other programs in the bill — NOAA satellites paid for by NASA, for example and differences in the way some Dept of Justice programs are funded — that might cause some rejiggering of funding levels as these bills go to the floor and into conference. But it’s always better to start with a big-ish number and work from there, rather than starting with a smaller number. Also important is the verbiage used by both committees in summarizing the increases. Our arguments about the importance of NSF and NIST in promoting US innovation and competitiveness still resonate loudly with both sides of the aisle.

More details as they become available!

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