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.


Appropriations Update: FY 18 House and Senate Numbers for Defense Research


In our continuing series looking at the House and Senate appropriations moves for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY2018), we turn to the Defense Appropriations bills. Just before the Thanksgiving break, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee released their version of the bill; the House had passed their version back at the end of June. The Department of Defense’s Science and Technology (DOD S&T) program is made up of three accounts: 6.1 (basic research), 6.2 (applied research), and 6.3 (advanced technology development). These accounts are themselves made up of individual accounts for each of the three services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), as well as a Defense Wide (DW) account. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a section under the Defense Wide account.

It’s worth taking a step back and seeing what the President’s request for DOD S&T was back in May. As with other parts of the President Trump’s request for science accounts, it was not good for Defense Research. All three accounts, 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3, would have seen cuts, relative to what was passed in the Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus, under the President’s plan; DARPA would have seen a healthy increase. This is striking given how central increased defense spending is to the President’s overall message, both on the campaign trail and since he has come into office. Here are the actual numbers in the President’s Budget Request (PBR):

FY17 Enacted FY18 PBR $ Change % Change
6.1 Basic Research $2.28B $2.23B -$48M -2.1%
6.2 Applied Research $5.30B $4.97B -$323M -6.1%
6.3 Advanced Technology Development $6.44B $6.00B -$442M -6.9%
DARPA $2.89B $3.17B +$281M +9.7%

The House numbers are only slightly improved from what the President requested. Under the House’s plan, 6.1 would be effectively flat funded (+0.1 percent), while both 6.2 and 6.3 would see cuts (-1 percent and -2.5 percent, respectfully). DARPA again comes out the winner (+6.3 percent), but not as good as under the President’s plan. All of these are relative to the FY2017 enacted budget. Here are the specific numbers:

FY17 Enacted FY18 House $ Change % Change
6.1 Basic Research $2.276B $2.279B +$3M +0.1%
6.2 Applied Research $5.30B $5.24B -$60M -1.0%
6.3 Advanced Technology Development $6.44B $6.28B -$120M -2.5%
DARPA $2.89B $3.07B +$180M +6.3%

Turning to the Senate numbers, the situation doesn’t improve. This time it’s applied research that gets the slight increase (+0.8 percent), while both basic research and advanced technology development gets cuts (-0.8 percent and -1.4 percent); DARPA, again, gets a healthy increase but it’s the smallest of any of the three plans (+4.9 percent). These numbers are especially surprising given that the Senate has traditionally been the protector of defense basic research and has seen to it that the account stays at a healthy level. Here are the specifics:

FY17 Enacted FY18 Senate $ Change % Change
6.1 Basic Research $2.276B $2.259B -$17M -0.8%
6.2 Applied Research $5.30B $5.34B +$40M +0.8%
6.3 Advanced Technology Development $6.44B $6.35B -$99M -1.4%
DARPA $2.89B $3.03B +$104M +4.9%

It’s hard to understand where these numbers, from either chamber of Congress, are coming from. Defense spending is seen in a positive light, most especially on the Republican side of the aisle, and the Pentagon is expected to get a general increase in funding. Why this rising tide isn’t benefiting defense S&T isn’t clear. There’s still a chance that things can improve when the bills are reconciled in conference, especially if a deal is reached to increase the budget caps. However, it is a heavy lift when both chamber’s plans call for flat funding or cuts.

The Senate only marked up their bill in the subcommittee last week. It’s unlikely to progress beyond that in the Senate, as the continuing resolution (CR) that is keeping the Federal Government funded runs out on December 8th and a larger deal on funding is likely to be made (or not). The CR is likely to be extended to at least the week before Christmas, with no guarantee about when a final decision on Fiscal Year 2018 will be decided; we’ve already heard rumblings that it could be kicked to early next calendar year. The short answer is we have to wait to see how this plays out. Keep checking back for more updates.

Appropriations Update: FY 18 House and Senate Numbers for Defense Research