Senate appropriators have bucked the trend of proposed low defense research budgets, put forward by both the President and their House counterparts, for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22); instead they approved legislation that would significantly increase funding for Defense Basic Research (6.1). DOD 6.1 would grow by 12.5 percent vs. FY21 to $3.0 billion under the Senate plan, and DARPA funding would grow 12.1 percent to $4.25 billion.
This is in sharp contrast to the other budget plans that have been proposed. The President’s budget request included cuts to all three S&T accounts. Both 6.1 and 6.2 would see cuts by 14.5 percent, and 6.3 would be cut by 11.1 percent. While DARPA would escape cuts under the President’s plan, it would do so barely with an increase of 0.8 percent. The details of the House plan were not much better: cuts all-around of 8.7 percent for 6.1; 8.3 percent for 6.2; 1.5 percent for 6.3; and 0.6 percent for DARPA.
As a refresher, DOD’s Science and Technology 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. DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is a section under the Defense Wide account.
But the Senate’s plan is objectively better, and in most respects outright good. Basic Research (6.1), which is the main Defense Department supporter of fundamental research at US universities, would receive a large increase of 12.5 percent compared to its FY21 levels. The account goes from $2.67 billion in FY21 to $3.00 billion for FY22, an increase of $333 million. For the university basic research community, there is great news: the services’ “University Research Initiative” subaccounts get exceptionally large increases, with the Army’s subaccount increasing by 71.9 percent, the Navy’s increasing by 62.6 percent, and Air Force’s increasing by 33.3 percent. Since the President’s disappointing request, the Defense research community has been pushing for healthy numbers for all of the defense research accounts and it’s good to see the Senate respond favorably.
The Applied Research (6.2) account is in a different spot; flat-to-slight increase under the Senate’s plan. The full account would see just a 1.3 percent increase compared to last year’s budget, going from $6.45 billion in FY21 to $6.53 billion under the Senate’s plan (a plus up of $86 million). But when compared against the requested budget from May, the account would receive a bump up of 18.6 percent.
The Advanced Technology Development (6.3) account would receive a healthy increase. It would go from $7.76 billion in FY21 to $8.13 billion in FY22, an increase of $379million (or +4.9 percent). Significantly better than the 1.5 percent cut under the House’s plan, or the 11.1 percent cut in the President’s request.
Finally, DARPA would see an increase almost as good as 6.1. The agency would go from $3.50 billion in FY21 to $3.93 billion in FY22, an increase of 12.1 percent or $425 million.
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What happens next? We are still waiting for Congress to close out the reconciliation and infrastructure bills; it sounds like there is potential movement on both any day now. Once those are cleared then Congress can get into endgame planning for FY22. They have until December 3rd, the expiration date of the current Continuing Resolution; but that can be pushed back, especially if the reconciliation and infrastructure talks drag on. Unfortunately, we have to wait for the legislative logjam to clear before we have a better idea of how the Fiscal Year 2022 budget ends; please keep checking back for more updates.