Appropriations Update: House Numbers for NSF, NIST, and NASA are out and they are quite good!

Congress has begun the yearly appropriations process, divvying up tax-payer dollars to the assorted federal agencies. As is the norm, the House Appropriations Committee has begun its work first. The bill of most importance to the CS and IT research community is the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill; it contains the funding for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and NASA. And there is good news: increases all around!

First, the National Science Foundation is the big winner, with a 6.9 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) funding. NSF would get $8.64 billion for FY20, with an increase of $560 million over last year. Getting into the details, the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, which hosts NSF’s research portfolio, would receive an 8.9 percent increase, increasing from $6.52 billion in FY19 to $7.10 billion for FY20. As well, the Education and Human Resources (EHR) account would see a relatively modest increase of 4.4 percent, going from $910 million in FY19 to $950 million in FY20. If this bill were to become law, NSF would see significant growth for the first time in a decade.

FY18 FY19 FY20 House $ Change % Change
NSF Total $7.77B $8.08B $8.64B +$560M +6.9%
R&RA $6.30B $6.52B $7.10B +$580M +8.9%
EHR $902M $910M $950M +$40M +4.4%

While not making out as well as NSF, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) does get a healthy budget. The agency would see an increase of 5.5 percent, going from $986 million in FY19 to $1.04 billion in FY20. The institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see an increase for FY20; $751 million for FY20, which is $26 million more (3.6 percent) than it received for FY19.

FY18 FY19 FY20 House $ Change % Change
NIST Total $1.20B $986M $1.04B +$54M +5.5%
STRS $725M $725M $751M +$26M +3.6%

Finally, NASA funding included in the bill would exceed last year’s by 3.8 percent, increasing from $21.5 billion in FY19 to $22.32 billion in FY20. The NASA Science account would also see a 3.6 percent increase, from $6.91 billion up to $7.16 billion for FY20.

FY18 FY19 FY20 House $ Change % Change
NASA Total $20.74B $21.50B $22.32B +$820M +3.8%
Science $6.22B $6.91B $7.16B +$250M +3.6%

How likely is it that these numbers will be passed into law? Unlikely. Given that the Administration released a budget with steep cuts, and has been confrontational with the Democratic led House on multiple topics, these numbers aren’t likely to be passed as is. These numbers are likely the best-case scenario for this year’s appropriations.

However, the Senate is not likely to be too far behind. Keep in mind that Congress has rejected the Administration’s budget requests for the last two years, and that was when Republicans controlled both chambers of the legislature. It’s likely that the Senate numbers, which should come out later in the summer, will at a minimum maintain the current level of effort. And a more modest increase would not be unexpected. So there is reason for optimism. But only time will tell what the final budget numbers will be; keep checking back for more updates.