Appropriations Update: NSF, NIST, and NASA do well in FY19 Senate Bill

[Editor’s Note: This post was written by CRA’s new Tisdale Policy Fellow for Summer 2018, Amita Shukla.]

Continuing CRA’s tracking of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) appropriations process, we turn to the Senate’s Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up their version of the CJS bill on June 14th (by June 28th, the Committee finished marking up all 12 subcommittees’ bills, a 30-year record for timeliness). The CJS bill includes funding for NSF, NIST, and NASA, which are of the most concern to the computing community, along with funding for the Department of Justice. While the attention surrounding this bill has been dominated by immigration issues concerning the Department of Justice, science and computing research have fared relatively well.

The bill includes a healthy increase of 3.9 percent for the National Science Foundation, an increase from $7.77 billion in FY18 to $8.18 billion for FY19. While in the context of the recent run of relatively flat budgets for the agency this is a good development, the funding is not quite as generous as the 5 percent increase provided by the House Appropriations Committee’s in their version of the FY19 CJS appropriations. Drilling into the details, the Research and Related Activities account, which hosts NSF’s research portfolio, would receive a 3.6 percent increase, increasing from $6.33 billion in FY18 to $8.07 billion for FY19. The bill also includes a special set-aside of funds for quantum science, echoing what was done in the Energy and Water appropriations. In report language accompanying the bill, the Senate states that establishing “world-class leadership computing” in quantum science is of critical strategic importance in maintaining US dominance, “particularly given computational investments and technical achievements in high-performance computing by other nations, notably China and Japan.”

FY17 FY18 FY19 PBR Senate $ Change % Change
NSF Total $7.50B $7.77B $7.47B $8.07B $301M 3.9%
RRA $6.01B $6.33B $6.15B $6.56B $410M 3.6%
EHR $873M $902M $873 $915M $13M 1.4%

Funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) does not fare quite as well in the bill as NSF, though perhaps not as bad as it initially appears for research. While it appears that NIST would see a steep cut of 13 percent in the bill, the cut falls predominantly on the agency’s Construction of Research Facilities account (which would see a cut in half from FY18 levels). The facilities cuts, however, do not indicate diminished support but merely a readjustment from a FY18 one-time increase to complete the Radiation Physics building in Maryland. Even with the cut, NIST would still see funding overall above FY17 levels. The institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see funding of $725 million in FY19; the same as FY18. While flat funding is not ideal, it is much better than the President’s requested 48 percent cut. Additionally, the committee proposes $5 million for a quantum science and engineering public-private partnership fund, reaffirming that quantum science is to be an inter-organizational, cross-cutting initiative.

FY17 FY18 FY19 PBR Senate $ Change % Change
NIST Total $954M $1.2B $629M $1.04B -$161M -13%
STRS $690M $725M $573M $725M 0 0%

NASA funding included in the bill would exceed that for FY18 by 3%, increasing from $20.7 billion in FY18 to $21.3 billion. The NASA Science account would also see a 3% increase, from $5.9 billion up to $6.4 billion.

FY17 FY18 FY19 PBR Senate $ Change % Change
NASA Total $19.6B $20.7B $19.9B $21.3B $587M 3.0%
Science $5.76B $6.22B $5.90B $6.40B $500M 3.0%

In comparison to the House Appropriations Committee’s action, the Senate was not as generous to most of the science research agencies that the computing research communities are concerned with. However, both are well above what the Administration requested, and there are few actual cuts of note.

So, what are next steps in the appropriations process? The House will most likely finish their work, passing all of their bills through the full chamber by the end of July. While the Senate Appropriations Committee is done with their work, the expectation is that the process in the full chamber will come to a halt, especially with a Supreme Court nomination expected to take up all the Senate’s time for the foreseeable future. With the fast approaching mid-term elections in November, and the expectation that Congress will take October off to campaign, the likely outcome is another continuing resolution, at the end of September, to keep the government running until after the election. Expect final passage of FY19 appropriations some time after that, dependent in part on the outcome of the election. So stay tuned for continuing coverage of the appropriations process.

Appropriations Update: NSF, NIST, and NASA do well in FY19 Senate Bill