President Biden Releases Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request; Topline Numbers for Multiple Science Agencies Do Well; NSF Gets 19% Increase

Yesterday, the Biden Administration released some details of their $5.8 trillion budget request for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). We say “some details” because there are several important supporting documents that the Administration plans to release over the next week. Despite the lack of a few details, it is still possible to have a high-level view of the Administration’s plans; from what we see in this request, research agencies across the federal government will do quite well under President Biden’s budget request, much as they did in last year’s request.

The President’s FY23 proposal calls for $1.6 trillion for discretionary funds, including $813 billion for defense-related programs and $769 billion for domestic spending. That compares to $1.5 trillion enacted in the fiscal 2022 omnibus spending bill signed into law by President Biden earlier this month; that had $782 billion for defense and $730 billion for domestic spending.

Many of the general themes of this budget proposal are the same as with last year’s budget request and the R&D priorities memo that OSTP released at the end of the summer. The Administration is still focusing heavily on climate change; health and pandemic readiness programs; scientific innovation in critical and emerging technologies; and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

One item to note: the Administration decided to release their budget plan with comparisons to Fiscal Year 2021, not the recently passed FY22 Omnibus. It’s unclear why this was done. We are making comparisons here using the FY22 Omnibus numbers (where we can), hence why our information may not match other news outlets.

Let’s get into the details of the request:

National Science Foundation: Topline $10.5 billion, an increase of $1.66 billion, or 19 percent, over FY22 Omnibus levels. As with last year’s President’s request, NSF is the big winner by percentage increase among the science agencies. And the good news here goes down the line, with the Research and Related Activities (RRA) account receiving an increase of 17 percent and the Education and Human Resources (EHR) account receiving a 37 percent increase.

The budget materials also call for the CISE Directorate to receive a budget of $1.15 billion for FY23. It’s hard to get a solid idea on whether this is an increase for CISE, as they don’t have an estimate for their FY22 budget yet. It is an increase over the directorate’s FY21 budget of $1.01 billion. According to the program’s budget justification, the funds will, “accelerate climate and clean energy research, advance equity in science, engineering, and society, and bolster U.S. leadership in critical and emerging technologies.” The directorate’s plans also call for major investments in artificial intelligence, QIS, and semiconductors.

Established in the FY22 Omnibus is the new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP). The requested topline for TIP is $880 million. Since Congress didn’t set a specific amount for the directorate in the Omnibus, there isn’t a comparison that can be made to last year’s budget (the Administration did request $865 million in their FY22 request last year). The aim for TIP is, “to advance emerging technologies to address societal and economic challenges and opportunities; accelerate the translation of research results from the lab to market and society; and cultivate new education pathways leading to a diverse and skilled future technical workforce comprising researchers, practitioners, technicians, and entrepreneurs.” We’ll have to keep a close eye on TIP as it makes its way through the budget process, as Congress is likely to have significant changes for the directorate in the near future.

Department of Energy, Office of Science: Topline $7.8 billion, an increase of $320 million or 4.3 percent over FY22 Omnibus levels. Within the Office of Science account, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, home to most of SCs computing research programs, would fare slightly worse. The program would be funded at $1.07 billion, which is an increase of $30 million, or 2.9 percent, over last year. DOE hasn’t released their detailed justification but what is provided by the Administration makes clear the department will continue their investments in AI, QIS, and Exascale computing.

The Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, fairs quite well in the Administration’s proposal. The program would receive a topline of $700 million, which is an increase of $250 million over the FY22 Omnibus, or +56 percent. The budget documents state that, “this investment in high-potential, high-impact research and development would help remove the technological barriers to advance energy and environmental missions.” It would also appear that the Biden Administration is stepping away from plans to create a new ARPA-C program, for climate research, instead focusing efforts at ARPA-E. This is likely because ARPA-C did not get much traction in Congress last year. The Administration states that, “the budget…proposes expanded authority for ARPA-E to more fully address innovation gaps around adaptation, mitigation, and resilience to the impacts of climate change.”

National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST): The topline is $1.48 billion, an increase of $250 million, or 20 percent, over the FY22 Omnibus. The institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see almost as good of an increase; $975 million for this year, which is $125 million more (+15 percent) than it received in the FY22 Omnibus.

National Institutes of Health (NIH): The health research agency has a complicated budget request. At the topline, it would appear to do quite well, being funded for FY23 at $49.04 billion, receiving an increase of $4.08 billion over the FY22 Omnibus, or +9.1 percent. However, things are a bit deceptive, as the new ARPA-H program is included in that number. Modeled after DARPA at the Defense Department and ARPA-E at the Department of Energy, ARPA-H received $1 billion in the FY22 Omnibus and would receive $5 billion under the President’s FY23 plan. So, the majority of NIH’s increase is going to the new ARPA-H program, leaving only modest increases for the rest of the agency.

Department of Defense (DOD): Unfortunately, the information that has been released for the defense research accounts is contradictory to the information we have been using to track these accounts over the last few years; we will need more time to analyze this information. However, for DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the topline is provided: $4.12 billion, an increase of 6.5 percent (+$250 million) over FY22 levels.

NASA: Topline $26.0 billion, an increase of $2 billion or 8.3 percent over FY22 levels. The justification for the space agency’s FY23 budget is to invest in, “human and robotic exploration of the Moon; new technologies to improve the Nation’s space capabilities; and addressing the climate crisis through cutting-edge research satellites and green aviation research.” To that end, the Administration plans on providing the NASA Science program with a budget of $7.99 billion dollars, which is an increase of 5.1 percent, or $390 million, over FY22 Omnibus levels.

What happens now? The budget process now heads to both chambers of Congress for deliberations. Due to the late start, with last year’s budget only being finalized earlier this month, this is likely to be a long year for the federal budget process. Throwing in that this is an election year, it’s safe to say it’s unlikely FY23 will be finalized at the start of the fiscal year (which is October 1st). But we’ll be keeping track of developments, as well as have our normal detailed dives into specific agency’s requests, so be sure to check back for more information.

President Biden Releases Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request; Topline Numbers for Multiple Science Agencies Do Well; NSF Gets 19% Increase