This article is published in the April 2024 issue.

FY24 Budget Update: Congress Closes Out Fiscal Year with Generally Poor Budgets for Research Agencies; NSF and Defense Research Receive Significant Cuts

By Brian Mosley, Associate Director, Government Affairs

Note: parts of this article originally ran on the CRA Policy Blog in two posts that correspond to when Congress approved both halves of the Fiscal Year 2024 Federal budget.

In a two-stage process in March, Congress approved, and President Biden signed into law, the final funding levels for the Fiscal Year 2024 Federal Budget (FY24). The first part of the process was approved on March 8th, and it included the budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and NASA. The second part, which contained the budgets for the Department of Defense (DOD) research accounts and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was approved on March 22nd.

While it is good that the FY24 budget has been finalized, the specifics are not good for the country’s researchers. Most of the federal science agencies will be flat funded or will receive cuts, with some, particularly NSF and the DOD basic research accounts, receiving significant reductions to their budgets.

National Science Foundation:

FY23 Final FY23 House FY23 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
NSF Total $9.90B $9.63B $9.50B $9.06B -$840M -8.5%
R&RA $7.80B $7.87B $7.60B $7.18B -$620M -7.9%
EDU $1.37B $1.01B $1.23B $1.17B -$200M -14.6%

There is no sugarcoating this news, this is a bad budget for NSF. But it does require some backstory to understand what is happening. Regular readers of the CRA Policy Blog will recall that NSF received a historic increase for their Fiscal Year 2023 budget. However, it was done in an unusual way. The funding was placed in the supplemental funding section of the FY23 Omnibus, not in the section that contains NSF’s baseline budget. That means, from a certain point of view, NSF’s baseline budget did not increase last year. However, the appropriators put language in the omnibus bill resetting NSF’s baseline to the higher number.

Fast forward to the week of March 8th and Congressional appropriators are setting NSF’s baseline back to the FY22 levels (which are: Total, $8.84B; RRA, $7.20B; and EDU, $1.01B). By that comparison, the agency’s topline and EDU budgets are getting slight increases, while RRA is mostly flat. However, keep in mind NSF is doing all the new operations within the TIP Directorate, which received the majority of NSF’s FY23 increase, so this is a real cut to NSF’s budget and its operations.

In terms of policy details, the appropriators say a lot of good things about NSF in the explanatory statements section of the FY24 budget documents. The appropriators support NSF’s work in artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, and notes the first awards with the NSF Engines program in the TIP Directorate. The statements also support NSF’s efforts with the NAIRR program. There are also no restrictions on any broadening participation efforts at the agency, which were included in the House written (though never advanced) funding legislation.

However, all this praise is for not with such a large cut to the agency’s budget. The point about the NSF Engines program is particularly noteworthy, as it’s unclear how NSF can run that program as envisioned and fund their core research programs at the levels specified by Congress. Something will have to give.

It’s hard to tell where this budget is coming from. The science policy community in Washington has been hearing all year from members of Congress and their staff that, though “tough choices would have to be made,” NSF would be looked after. This appears more like NSF was overlooked in favor of other priorities.

Department of Defense S&T

FY23 Final FY23 PBR FY23 House FY23 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
DOD 6.1 $2.92B $2.48B $2.53B $3.22B $2.63B -$290M -10%
DOD 6.2 $7.80B $6.01B $6.73B $7.14B $7.60B -$200M -2.6%
DOD 6.3 $11.71B $9.33B $10.14B $10.00B $11.29B -$420M -3.6%
DARPA $4.06B $4.39B $4.12B $4.09B $4.12B +$60M +1.5%

As with NSF’s final FY24 budget, there is no sugarcoating the news with the Defense research accounts: these are bad budgets. However, from a paradoxical viewpoint, they are generally better than what the Administration requested in March of last year. Before going into that, let’s get into the specific budget numbers.

All three of DOD S&T’s accounts do badly relative to their previous year’s budgets. Basic Research (6.1), which is the main Defense Department supporter of fundamental research at US universities, received a big cut of 10 percent; going from $2.92 billion in the FY23 to $2.63 billon in FY24, a cut of $290 million. The details within the 6.1 accounts paint a pretty grim picture: the Army, Navy, and Air Force’s “University Research Initiative” subaccounts are cut at 20, 27, and 10 percent, respectively.

The Applied Research (6.2) account is hit with a cut too, though not as significant. The 6.2 account received a 2.6 percent cut, going from $7.80 billion in FY23 to $7.60 billion in FY24, a loss of $200 million. Finally, Advanced Technology Development (6.3) would also receive a cut, going from $11.71 billion in FY23 to $11.29 billion in FY24, a cut of $420 million, or 3.6 percent.

DARPA is the only bright spot among the defense accounts, escaping any proposed cuts but getting flat funded. The agency would see a 1.5 percent, going from $4.06 billion in FY23 to $4.12 billion in FY24, an increase of $60 million.

Here is the paradoxical part: when compared against the President’s requested budgets (PBR), these accounts received increases (except DARPA which would receive a cut relative to the PBR). Here are the percent differences when comparing FY24 Final vs FY24 PBR:

DOD 6.1: +26 percent

DOD 6.2: +21 percent

DOD 6.3: +21 percent

DARPA: -6.1 percent

In many ways this is a reflection of two things. First, the President’s requested budget for the DOD research accounts was quite bad. And second, Congress upped the accounts from those requested budgets. So, from Congress’ perspective, they did these accounts a favor. This only demonstrates the importance of the Administration submitting a good request to start the process; otherwise, it’s easy to be in a budgetary hole that one never gets out of.

National Institute of Standards & Technology

FY23 Final FY23 House FY23 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
NIST Total $1.63B $1.47B $1.45B $1.46B -$170M -10.4%
STRS $953M $1.02B $1.02B $1.08B +$127M +13.3%

The situation with NIST’s budget is quite unusual and confusing. CRA is performing a topline budget comparison above, but that muddies the waters in understanding the full extent of what is happening at the agency. Congress has used NIST as a vehicle for lots of Congressional directed funding (meaning earmarks) for the last several years. That makes a year-to-year comparison of their budget very difficult. AIP’s FYI Budget Tracker has done the hard work of keeping track of the specifics. 

When looking at the above chart, a data point to keep in mind: there were $300 million worth of earmarks in NIST’s FY24 topline budget, with $220 million in NIST STRS alone. Looking only at NIST’s base budget, according to AIP FYI, it will drop 8 percent to $1.16 billion. And the NIST construction account will be cut by a third. This isn’t great news for the agency, as it has a major maintenance backlog with its facilities.

In terms of policy direction, there are a bunch of good things said about the agency covering topics like AI, cybersecurity, quantum, and other matters. The appropriators even provide $10M for the new AI Safety Institute. But that is fairly cold comfort in light of such sobering budgets.

DOE Office of Science & ARPA-E

FY23 Final FY23 House FY23 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $8.10B $8.10B $8.43B $8.24B +$140M +1.7%
ASCR $1.07B $1.02B $1.02B $1.02B -$50M -4.7%
ARPA-E $470M $470M $450M $460M -$10M -2.1%

Among the few “winners” of the research agencies FY24 budgets, most of the programs within DOE’s Office of Science were flat funded or received slight cuts, with a few getting slight increases. These numbers are a compromise between the House’s flat funding ($8.10B) versus the Senate’s increase ($8.43B). The ASCR program in particular was set to get roughly the same budget in both the House and Senate plans. And ARPA-E receiving a relatively slight cut is to be expected in this budget environment.

In the explanatory statement for the Energy & Water accounts, the appropriators provided Senate levels of funding for DOE’s AI, machine learning, and QIS efforts within the Office of Science. They also provided FY23 level funding for the department’s FAIR and RENEW programs, whose aims are to expand and diversifying the researcher workforce and institutions that DOE works with; the House plan had zeroed out the budgets of these programs. There are no additional policy details or direction for ARPA-E.


FY23 Final FY23 House FY23 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
NASA Total $25.4B $25.4B $25.0B $24.9B -$500M -2.0%
Science $7.80B $7.38B $7.34B $7.33B -$470M -6.0%

NASA Science was the hardest hit part of NASA’s budget. Reading through the explanatory statements, it appears that the Congressional appropriators have serious questions about how NASA is handling multiple major projects, particularly the Mars Sample Return mission (several paragraphs in the explanatory statement are devoted to the MSR alone). There is also this line in the explanatory statements: “The agreement notes that there has not been consultation with some Members of Congress about NASA’s decision to move forward with workforce reductions before a fiscal year 2024 bill was enacted and notes concern that NASA’s actions have contributed to serious losses in NASA’s high-skilled workforce.” This is likely in reference to announced layoffs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in early February, which caught many policymakers off guard.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

FY23 Final FY23 House FY23 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
NIH Total $47.50B $48.60B $49.22B $48.68B +$1.18B +2.5%
ARPA-H $1.50B $500M $1.50B $1.50B 0 0

Finally, we come to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The agency would also be a relative winner in FY24, escaping cuts but effectively flat funded. At the topline budget, the agency would go from $47.50 billion in FY23 to $48.68 billion in FY24, an increase of $1.18 billion or 2.5 percent. Additionally, ARPA-H (or Advanced Research Project Agency, Health) would be flat funded, receiving the same amount in FY24 that it received in FY23: $1.50 billion.


These budgets have already passed Congress and been signed into law by President Biden. For better or worse, Fiscal Year 2024 is finally complete.

This is not an ideal outcome to this budgetary year. In fact, FY24 has been a particularly zero-sum environment and that is reflected in the research accounts. Keep in mind, House Republicans had adopted the position, at the beginning of 2023, to cut overall Federal spending to FY22 levels. A grim final budget for this year is not unexpected, but this is much worse than what either the House or Senate Appropriations Committees had been telegraphing during the year.

CRA has publicly voiced its concerns and frustrations with these budgets on behalf of the computing and information technology research community. We have pointed out the likely negative impacts these budgets will have on the country’s research enterprise, with the reduced quantity of research, the number of researchers, and the number of students educated in key fundamental areas of computing and other fields of discovery. It will also have negative impacts in areas of significant national interest like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, high-performance computing, and cyber security. All while our international competitors are doubling down on their investments in R&D. CRA will continue to make the case that the next fiscal year, Fiscal Year 2025, which the process is already underway, can’t follow down the road of cuts as far as research is concerned.