This article is published in the March 2005 issue.

President’s FY 2006 Budget Cuts IT R&D Funding Overall

President’s FY 2006 Budget Cuts IT R&D Funding Overall

Citing a need to continue to foster economic growth and address the deficit, as well as continue to prosecute the War on Terror, President Bush released an austere FY 2006 Budget Request that would sharply limit overall discretionary spending, including a significant reduction in the overall federal investment in information technology research and development.

The President’s budget plan, released February 7, 2005, would cut overall spending in FY 2006 for the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program—the federal crosscut for all agencies involved in funding information technology R&D—by 7 percent compared with FY 2005, decreasing the federal investment to $2.127 billion from $2.282 billion planned for FY 2005.

The $155-million cut includes a significant reduction in IT R&D activities at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and additional cuts at the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy. The National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency would all see slight increases under the President’s plan compared with their FY 2005 funding levels.

National Science Foundation

NSF is the lead agency in the NITRD program and would benefit from a slight increase in FY 2006 in the President’s budget request. Funding for IT R&D at NSF would increase by $8 million to $803 million for FY 2006, an increase of 1 percent. NSF’s overall budget would increase 2.4 percent to $5.6 billion in the President’s plan—making up the ground lost after a 2 percent overall cut to the agency by appropriators in the FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed in December. However, given an average annual inflation rate of 2.75 percent, the President’s requested level for NSF represents a slight decrease in real dollars for the agency.

Within NSF, the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate, home to the bulk of IT R&D funding, would also see an increase in funding in the President’s budget. For FY 2006, CISE would grow by $6.8 million over the FY 2005 level to $621 million, an increase of 1.1 percent. However, CISE also benefited from some additional priority-setting by NSF Director Arden Bement for the FY 2005.

Concerns from inside NSF and within the computing community over exceptionally low award rates in CISE put pressure on the NSF Director to address the issue by finding additional funding for the directorate. As Peter Freeman, Assistant Director for CISE, reported in the January 2005 edition of Computing Research News (vol. 17, no. 1), the directorate’s overall award rate of 16 percent in FY 2004—with award rates in some critical programs like Cyber Trust falling below 10 percent—was the lowest among directorates in the Foundation.

Bement took advantage of some flexibility in funding decisions provided by congressional appropriators in the FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriation to place a priority on CISE funding for the FY 2005 fiscal year. While most directorates suffered cuts ranging from $4 million to $6 million, CISE was provided an increase of $8.5 million in FY 2005 and a smaller $6.8 million increase in FY 2006. As a result of the increase in the FY 2005 planned budget and the President’s requested FY 2006 budget, CISE would see a growth of $15.2 million in FY 2006 compared with the year just completed (FY 2004), a total increase of 2.5 percent. Only the Social, Behavioral and Economic directorate would grow faster over that period (by 7.9 percent, to $199 million in FY 2006).

The biggest cut at NSF would come to the Education and Human Resources directorate, which would fall 12.4 percent in FY 2006 to $737 million, a $104-million reduction. Major Research Equipment and Facilities would see an increase of $76 million in FY 2006 to $250 million, an increase of 44 percent. That increase would go to fund existing MRE projects. NSF is requesting no new major research equipment starts in FY 2006.

Department of Defense

Both basic and applied research in the Department of Defense would see large reductions overall in FY 2006 under the President’s plan. DOD basic research (“6.1” research in defense parlance) would decrease $194 million to $1.31 billion in FY 2006, a reduction of 14 percent. DOD applied research (“6.2” research) would see a $711 million reduction to $4.13 billion, a 15-percent reduction.

The DOD contribution to NITRD is harder to assess. The President’s budget, though it includes numbers for DOD, notes that the agency will “reassess which of its IT R&D programs are appropriate to count as part of the NITRD program” and report any changes to the NITRD coordinating office—indicating there is some question as to whether the funding level reported is accurate. The funding level included in the President’s Budget Request—the only numbers available at press time—indicate DOD’s contribution to NITRD would actually increase $17 million in FY 2006 to $294 million under the President’s request, an increase of 6 percent.

While basic research at DARPA is also slated to drop to $222 million in FY 2006 from $246 million planned in FY 2005, applied research at the agency would see a slight gain to $2.01 billion, from $1.96 billion in FY 2005. Two funding lines at DARPA of particular interest to computing research would also see increases. Information and Communications Technology would grow $11 million in FY 2006 to $199 million, an increase of 6 percent. Cognitive Computing Systems would grow $51 million to $201 million, an increase of 34 percent.

Department of Energy

Overall, the Department of Energy Science Programs would see a reduction of $137 million in FY 2006, to $3.46 billion from $3.60 billion planned for FY 2005, a decrease of 4 percent. Included in that reduction is a $28-million cut to DOE NITRD-related funding. In FY 2006, DOE would spend $355 million on IT R&D, down from $383 million in FY 2005.

The President’s plan also calls for an 11 percent cut to DOE’s Advanced Scientific Computing program, to $XX million in FY 2006 from $YY million.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The NASA IT R&D budget would take the largest hit of any NITRD agency, according to the funding levels included in the President’s budget. While the agency would enjoy an overall funding increase of $377 million in FY 2006, to $9.5 billion from $9.1 billion in FY 2005, that increase would fall solely to the Exploration Systems accounts at NASA in support of the President’s Moon/Mars initiative. NASA’s Science and Aeronautics accounts would both see reductions of $51 million and $54 million, respectively (1 percent and 6 percent).

NASA’s IT R&D contribution would fall $135 million in FY 2006 to $57 million from $192 million in FY 2005, a decrease of 70 percent. Details of the cut were not available as this article went to press. For the latest information, see CRA’s Computing Research Policy Blog at:

Health and Human Services/National Institutes of Health

The President’s plan includes a reduction in NIH’s contribution to the NITRD program in FY 2006. NIH would invest $551 million in FY 2006, $22 million less than FY 2005, a decrease of 4 percent. However, the President’s Budget plan includes baseline budget levels for NIH—funding for FY 2004 Actual and FY 2005 Estimated—that are $119 million higher than similar levels the agency reported in last year’s budget request, with no additional detail about the source of the additional funding, or where it was directed, available at press time. Please see the CRA Computing Research Policy Blog for the latest information.

The release of the President’s budget request marks the first step in the year-long process of setting the final budget and appropriations for federal agencies. The President’s budget is a useful guide for Congress as it begins its deliberations, but it is hardly definitive. Congress will work in the coming months to set its own budget priorities, the first step being the attempted passage of a Joint Congressional Budget Resolution, likely in March or April.

CRA will continue to track the budget through this process and work to ensure that computing research is adequately supported. For all the latest developments, check CRA’s Computing Research Policy Blog at

President’s FY 2006 Budget Cuts IT R&D Funding Overall