Computing Research Policy Blog

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Final FY20 Appropriations: Mostly Increases for Research but There is Some Bad News


Just in time for the calendar year 2020, and almost three months after the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) began, Congress is finally finishing up its work on the Federal budget with two Minibuses of all the appropriations legislation. For the research community, it’s mostly good news but there are a few clouds in the sky: the National Science Foundation will see very modest increases under the bill, and the defense research accounts are essentially flat-funded.

But first the good news: the big winners in this year’s budget are the Department of Energy Office of Science (6.2 percent increase over FY19), the National Institutes of Health (+6.7 percent), and DOE’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E (+16 percent). Additionally, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, which is within the DOE’s Office of Science, and where most of the computing research at the agency is located, would see a healthy 4.7 percent increase. Rounding out the good news, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would see an increase of 4.5 percent to their top line, while the institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see an increase of 4.0 percent; and NASA would see an increase of 5.3 percent, while NASA Science would receive an increase of 3.3 percent. More specific numbers are below ($ and % changes are FY20 Final against FY19; PBR stands for “President’s Budget Request.”).

FY19 FY20 PBR FY20 House FY20 Senate FY20 Final $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $6.59B $5.50B $6.87B $7.22B $7.00B +$410M +6.2%
ASCR $936M $921M $957M $1.03B $980M +$44M +$4.7%
ARPA-E $366M 0 $425M $428M $425M +$59M +16%
NIH $39.1B $34.4B $41.1B $42.1B $41.7B +$2.6B +6.7%
NIST Total $986M $687M $1.04B $1.04B $1.03B +$44M +4.5%
STRS $725M $612M $751M $754M $754M +$29M +4.0%
NASA Total $21.50B $21.02B $22.32B $22.75B $22.63B +$1.13B +5.3%
Science $6.91B $6.30B $7.16B $6.91B $7.14B +$230M +3.3%

Considering how terrible the President’s Budget Request was at the start of this process, all these accounts made out very well.

But, regular readers will notice that we haven’t mentioned the NSF’s numbers. That’s because, while the agency will get an increase, the numbers are below both the House and Senate numbers that came out during the year. The likely reason is that there were a large number of demands in the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill, with the 2020 Census probably taking up the majority of any increases in the bill. NSF’s top line will only increase by 2.5 percent, while the Research and Related Activities (RRA) and Education and Human Resource (EHR) both received larger increases (+3.4 percent and +3.3 percent, respectively).

FY19 FY20 PBR FY20 House FY20 Senate FY20 Final $ Change % Change
NSF Total $8.08B $7.10B $8.64B $8.32B $8.28B +$200M +2.5%
R&RA $6.52B $5.66B $7.10B $6.77B $6.74B +220M +3.4%
EHR $910M $824M $950M $937M $940M +$30M +3.3%

Finally, the appropriations deal contains essentially flat funding for most defense research accounts. As a reminder, 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 account. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a section under the Defense Wide account. Unfortunately, the only account to receive any type of meaningful increase was the 6.1 account (+2.8 percent). The other three received 0 percent, 0.5 percent, and 0.9 percent respectively. In short, not good numbers for DOD research.

FY19 FY20 PBR FY20 House FY20 Senate FY20 Final $ Change % Change
DOD 6.1 $2.53B $2.32B $2.51B $2.63B $2.60B +$70M +2.8%
DOD 6.2 $6.07B $5.32B $5.56B $5.98B $6.07B 0 0
DOD 6.3 $7.36B $6.42B $6.78B $7.10B $7.40B +$40M +0.5%
DARPA $3.43B $3.56B $3.53B $3.36B $3.46B +$30M +0.9%

Where is this in the legislative process? The House passed both spending bills on Tuesday; the Senate is expected to pass them before the Friday December 20th deadline, and then send them to the President’s desk for signing into law. Assuming he does sign them, Fiscal Year 2020 will be in the books and we can look forward to the Fiscal Year 2021 process…which starts, with the President’s Budget Request, at the beginning of February.

Final FY20 Appropriations: Mostly Increases for Research but There is Some Bad News