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.


Roundup of FY2021 Research Agency Requests: NIST, NIH, and NASA, A Familiar Theme of Cuts


In our continuing series following the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget request, we close out with a roundup of an assortment of Federal research agencies. These include the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and NASA. There’s a familiar theme to all of these accounts: cuts to research (even when it looks like an agency was a budgetary winner).

First, we’ll go into the agency that, at first blush, looks like a big winner: NASA. The top line for the space agency is one of the big winners in the President’s budget request; it received a 5.3 percent increase, going from $22.63 billion in FY20 to $25.25 billion in FY21. However, that increase goes almost entirely to the Human Exploration (+46 percent) and Space Technology (+43 percent) accounts. NASA Science, which handles the research funding at the agency, gets a significant cut of 12 percent, going from $7.14 billion in FY20 to $6.31 billion in FY21. Additionally, the STEM Engagement account at NASA would be eliminated under the President’s plan. So much for being a big winner.

FY19 FY20 FY21 PBR $ Change % Change
NASA Total $21.50B $22.63B $25.25B +$2.62B +5.3%
NASA Science $6.91B $7.14B $6.31B -$830M -12%

The trend continues with NIST. The top line for the agency would see a significant cut of 28 percent, going from $1.03 billion in FY20 to $738 million in FY21. The institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see a not as large, but still significant, cut of 13 percent; going from $754 million in FY20 to $652 million in FY21.

FY19 FY20 FY21 PBR $ Change % Change
NIST Total $986M $1.03B $738M -$292M -28%
STRS $725M $754M $652M -$102M -13%

Finally we come to the National Institutes of Health; even this popular agency doesn’t escape the budgetary chopping block. Under the President’s plan, the agency would go from $41.7 billion in FY20 to $38.7 billion in FY21, a reduction of $3 billion or 7.2 percent.

FY19 FY20 FY21 PBR $ Change % Change
NIH $39.1B $41.7B $38.7B -$3.0B -7.2%

As with the other research accounts we’ve profiled, these cuts are unlikely to make it into a final FY21 budget. However, this is a bad place to begin the process; as just one example, Congress could provide flat funding and say they “saved” the agencies from worse budget cuts. Additionally, when the FY21 budget will be finalized is anyone’s guess; almost certainly it won’t be done before the November election.

Next steps in the FY21 budget process are for each chamber of Congress to come up with their individual funding plans; that process should start within the next month. You’ll have updates; so keep checking back for more information.

Roundup of FY2021 Research Agency Requests: NIST, NIH, and NASA, A Familiar Theme of Cuts