FY21 Appropriations Update: From a Certain Point of View, the House Numbers for the Defense Department are Good. But They’re Not Good.
Continuing our review of the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) federal budget, we turn to the House Appropriations Committee’s bill for the Department of Defense. DOD’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 numbers that the House settled on for these accounts are not good, but they are better than what the Administration requested.
Taking a moment to look at the President’s budget request from February, it’s worth remembering that it was particularly bad. All three accounts, 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3, were cut by 11 percent, 11 percent, and 14 percent, respectively. Only DARPA received an increase of 3.2 percent. This is where the “from a certain point of view” comes in: when compared against the Administration’s request, these accounts do quite well under the House’s plan. It’s when you compare them against their current budgets (i.e.: what the programs are working with right now), that we see the House’s numbers are not good. Let’s take a look.
Basic Research (6.1) gets a slight increase against FY20 numbers. The account goes from $2.60 billion to $2.62 billion in FY21, an increase of 0.8 percent or $20 million.
The Applied Research (6.2) account is in much the same spot, looking terrible compared to last year’s budget but seems good in comparison to the Administration’s request. The full account would see a 2.5 percent cut compared to last year’s budget, going from $6.07 billion in FY20 to $5.92 billion under the House’s plan (a loss of $150 million). But when compared against the requested budget in February, the account would receive a bump of 9.8 percent.
Finally, the Advanced Technology Development (6.3) account would receive the largest cut, going from $7.40 billion in FY20 to $7.08 billion in FY21, a cut of $320 million (or 3.3 percent). As before, when compared against the President’s request, the account would receive an 11.8 percent boast.
DARPA would see an increase but, in a break with the pattern, would not do as well as the Administration requested (you’ll recall DARPA was the “big winner” of the Defense research accounts in February). The agency would go from $3.46 billion in FY20 to $3.51 billion under the House’s FY21 plan, an increase of 1.4 percent (or $50 million). The Administration requested $3.57 billion for the agency.
|FY20||FY21 PBR||$ Change||% Change||FY21 House||$ Change||% Change|
What happens next? The bill will be go before the full Appropriations Committee and then on to the full House for approval; it’s likely to not meet any resistance. We then have to wait to see what the Senate numbers will be. As in previous years, the House and Administration being so far apart means the Senate’s numbers are likely to be a compromise between the two. Which means those numbers are likely to be what is agreed to for a final budget. We’ll keep watching as events unfold; please check back for more updates.