NSF FY2020 Request: It is Not Good

As we discussed last week, the Trump Administration is slowly rolling out their Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget request. What they released last week was only a high-level summary, which didn’t appear to be good for the federal research agencies, NSF in particular. However it lacked details, which are beginning to be revealed this week.

Unfortunately, those details for the National Science Foundation’s budget request don’t make the picture look better. The agency is slated to get a twelve percent cut overall, with that percentage fairly evenly split between Research and Related Activities (R&RA), the subaccount that contains the funding for the research grants, and Education and Human Resources (EHR), which contains the agency’s education programs. R&RA would receive a 13.2 percent cut compared to FY19 final, while EHR would receive a 9.5 percent cut.

Going into the details of the request for R&RA, the cut is uneven among the assorted research directorates, but everyone gets hit hard. CISE, home to the computing and computer science research portfolio, would receive an 8.1 percent reduction compared to FY18 (a final number for CISE’s FY19 budget is not available). Such a large cut to CISE is unfortunate, especially when you consider that NSF funds 85 percent of all federally supported academic basic research in the computer science and related fields. But that’s on the relatively low side, with the Geo and MPS directorates getting larger cuts of 13.3 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively.

FY18 FY19 FY20 PBR $ Change % Change
NSF Total $7.77B $8.08B $7.10B -$980M 12.1%
R&RA $6.30B $6.52B $6.55B -$860M -13.2%
EHR $902M $910M $824 -$86M -9.5%
CISE $961M $833M

What’s next? The good news is this request now heads to Congress, where it will likely be ignored (especially by the Democratic controlled House of Representatives), as previous requests from this Administration have been. However, that’s where the good news ends. Many of the budget impasses that caused the government shut down in December and January have not gone away. The expectation among the science policy community in Washington is that a continuing resolution is likely, if not another government shut down (which is still unlikely but not beyond the realm of possibilities). Please keep checking back for more details.

NSF FY2020 Request: It is Not Good