FY21 Appropriations Update: House Appropriators Provide Increases for NSF, NIST

After handling the multiple bills responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress is finally turning to handling the annual federal budget. As is the norm, the House Appropriations Committee has begun its work first. A 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. The bill as a whole is good news, with a few exceptions; but it is also pretty good news for NSF.

The House CJS bill provides a 3.3 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) funding for NSF. The Foundation would receive $8.55 billion for FY21 overall, an increase of $270 million over last year. The Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, which hosts NSF’s research portfolio, would receive a 3.4 percent increase, up from $6.74 billion in FY20 to $6.97 billion for FY21. As well, the Education and Human Resources (EHR) account would see a similar increase of 3.2 percent, going from $940 million in FY20 to $970 million in FY21. While not as good as last year’s House numbers, they represent a considerable improvement over the President’s requested FY21 budget for the agency.

FY19 FY20 FY21 House $ Change % Change
NSF Total $8.08B $8.28B $8.55B +$270M +3.3%
R&RA $6.52B $6.74B $6.97B +$230M +3.4%
EHR $910M $940M $970M +$30M +3.2%

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) budget is a bit more mixed. The top line for the agency would effectively be flat funded, receiving just a 1 percent, going from $1.03 billion in FY20 to $1.04 billion in FY21 (a $10 million increase). However, the institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see a healthy increase for FY21; $789 million for this year, which is $35 million more (4.6 percent) than it received for FY20.

FY19 FY20 FY21 House $ Change % Change
NIST Total $986M $1.03B $1.04B +$10M +1.0%
STRS $725M $754M $789M +$35M +4.6%

Finally, NASA’s budget is where we see the bad news. The top line for the agency is flat funded, receiving the same amount for FY21 that it received last year ($22.63 billion). However, NASA’s Science account would receive a small cut of $40 million (or -0.6 percent); the account would go from $7.14 billion in FY20 to $7.10 billion in FY21.

FY19 FY20 FY21 House $ Change % Change
NASA Total $21.50B $22.63B $22.63B 0 0
Science $6.91B $7.14B $7.10B -$40M -0.6%

What’s next? The bills head to the full House Appropriations Committee for approval and then to the full House chamber; they’re expected to move with little difficulty. After that, we have to wait and see what the Senate Appropriations Committee does with their budget bills. They are supposed to start work on them later this month. Given the unusual state of events, and the forthcoming Presidential election in November, any final decision on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget is likely to happen in December at the earliest. It’s a wait-and-see situation, so please check back for more updates.