FY22 Appropriations Update: Senate Appropriators Provide Increases for NSF, NIST, & NASA, but Not as Generous as the House

On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee released their final nine appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). Continuing our regular coverage of the federal budget process, we’ll start by looking at the Senate’s Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which contains the budgets for NSF, NIST, and NASA. This bill provides a good look at the Senate’s approach to the FY22 budget. Namely that the chamber provides generous increases for many of the research agencies, but they are generally not as generous as either the Biden Administration’s request or the House Appropriations Committee’s plan. Let’s get into the details.

Under the Senate’s plan, NSF would receive $9.49 billion, which is a $1.0 billion increase (+11.8 percent) over the FY21 number ($8.49 billion). While objectively good, keep in mind the Biden Administration’s budget plan provided $10.2 billion for NSF and the House appropriators provided $9.63 billion for the agency.

Drilling down more, the Research & Related Activities account, which hosts NSF’s research portfolio, would receive $7.67 billion in the Senate’s plan. Again, a significant increase (+$757 million or a 11 percent increase) but below the President’s ($8.14 billion) and the House’s ($7.70 billion) marks. The Education & Human Resources account is similar: the Senate’s number of $1.10 billion (+$132 million or 13.6 percent) is below both the President ($1.29 billion) and the House ($1.27 billion).

FY20 FY21 FY22 Senate $ Change % Change
NSF Total $8.28B $8.49B $9.49B +$1.0B +11.8%
R&RA $6.74B $6.91B $7.67B +$757M +11%
EHR $940M $968M $1.10B +$132M +13.6%

In an interesting development, Senate appropriators provided a specific number for the new Technology, Innovations, & Partnerships (TIP) directorate within RRA. TIP is the Biden Administration’s plan for a new technology development directorate at NSF. Regular readers will recall that there are competing ideas for such a directorate between the authorizing committees in each chamber; the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee version is called the Directorate of Technology and Innovation and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee version is called the Directorate for Science & Engineering Solutions. While the House appropriators expressed support for the Administration’s plan, they did not call out a specific funding level for the new directorate; Senate appropriators, however, provided $865 million, which is what the Administration requested, and voiced their support for the agency’s efforts in setting up TIP. It’s unusual for Congress to drill down to the directorate level and it’s not clear at the moment if this is a good thing.

In terms of policy items in the committee’s report, there are a few highlights. The committee is supportive of NSF’s efforts in QIS and AI and fully funds the requests for these efforts. There is also a section on High Performance Computing, where the committee both compliments NSF for its efforts and investments, but then says the committee is concerned these efforts fall short of scientific and engineering needs. To that end, the committee directs NSF to provide, “a timely, well-funded budget line in future budget submissions…to support world-class leadership in computing for the national open science community.” Finally, there is a section encouraging NSF to enter into an agreement with the National Academies to conduct a study on disinformation and misinformation.

As for the other research agencies in the CJS bill, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) budget is quite good. The top line for the agency would see a healthy increase, going from $1.03 billion in FY21 to $1.39 billion in FY22 (+$360 million or +35 percent); that is better than the House mark ($1.37 billion) but below the Administration’s ($1.50 billion). The institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would likewise see a good increase for FY22; $913 million for this year, which is $125 million more (+16 percent) than it received for FY21. But STRS’ numbers are below both President Biden’s and the House’s recommended numbers for FY22.

FY20 FY21 FY22 Senate $ Change % Change
NIST Total $1.03B $1.03B $1.39B +$360M +35%
STRS $754M $788M $913M +$125M +16%

Finally, NASA’s budget: the top line for the space agency would receive an increase of 6.6 percent, going from $23.27 billion in FY21 to $24.80 billion in FY22 (+$1.53 billion). And NASA’s Science account would likewise receive a boost up of $600 million (or +8.2 percent); the account would go from $7.30 billion in FY21 to $7.90 billion in FY22. But again, these numbers are below what the President and the House suggested in in their respective budget plans.

FY20 FY21 FY22 Senate $ Change % Change
NASA Total $22.63B $23.27B $24.80B +$1.53B +6.6%
Science $7.14B $7.30B $7.90B +$600M +8.2%

What happens next? The Senate Appropriations Committee released these bills to forego the normal subcommittee markup process; but it’s unclear if the full committee will still consider these bills, or if they are to used in negotiations with the House on a possible year-end omnibus funding bill. There is likely not enough time between now and the expiration of the current Continuing Resolution (December 3rd) for the full committee to consider all nine bills. Complicating matters, the Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member, Richard Shelby (R-AL), has voiced displeasure that the committee’s chairman released these bills without the consent of the minority. As well, Shelby is already saying another CR beyond Dec 3rd will be needed. We’ll have to let things play out more before we know what will happen, so please keep checking back for more updates.

FY22 Appropriations Update: Senate Appropriators Provide Increases for NSF, NIST, & NASA, but Not as Generous as the House