NSF FY2023 Request: Again, President Biden Calls for a Strong Vision for NSF’s Future Backed Up with a Robust Funding Increase

Earlier this week, the Biden Administration released its long anticipated Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Budget Request. As we have done in years past, we’ll be writing a series of posts on the assorted agency budgets that are important to the computing research community. First up: the National Science Foundation. As with last year’s budget request, the Biden Administration is advocating a strong vision for NSF, assigning the agency a leading role in many of the Administration’s science priorities, and backing it up with a generous budget increase.

Under the Administration’s FY23 plan, NSF fares very well; the agency would see a 19 percent increase compared to the FY22 Omnibus. NSF would go from $8.84 billion in FY22 to $10.5 billion in FY23, an increase of $1.66 billion.

A large part of that increase would go into Research and Related Activities (R&RA), the subaccount that contains the funding for research grants. R&RA would increase from $7.20 billion in FY22 to $8.43 billion in FY23, a plus up of $1.23 billion (or 17 percent). Education and Human Resources (EHR), the subaccount that contains the agency’s education programs, would also see an increase of $370 million, going from $1.01 billion in FY22 to $1.38 billion under the President’s plan; that’s an increase of 37 percent.

FY21 FY22 FY23 PBR $ Change % Change
NSF Total $8.49B $8.84B $10.5B +$1.66B +19%
R&RA $6.91B $7.20B $8.43B +$1.23B +17%
CISE $1.01B NA $1.15B NA NA
EHR* $968M $1.01B $1.38B +$370M +37%

* – Please see below for a note about EHR.

The Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE), located within R&RA, and the home for most computing research support at NSF, will likely receive an increase, though it’s hard to be sure at the moment. This is because CISE doesn’t currently have an estimate on its budget for FY22 (remember, NSF’s budget was just approved by Congress last month). CISE would receive $1.15 billion under the President’s FY23 budget plan, which is an increase over the directorate’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget of $1.01 billion.

According to the program’s budget justification, the funds will support, “the Nation’s priorities through investments in AI, advanced computing systems and services including high-performance computing (HPC), QIS, advanced communications technologies, advanced manufacturing, semiconductors and microelectronics, biotechnology, cybersecurity, and disaster response and resilience.” The directorate’s plans will also, “continue to invest in a broad suite of activities to support broadening participation in research and education in CISE fields and STEM more generally.” Specifically called out are CISE’s Broadening Participation in Computing Alliances (BPC-A) and Minority-Serving Institutions Research Expansion (CISE-MSI) programs, and the directorate’s investments in Computer Science for All (CSforAll) and CISE Graduate Fellowships (CSGrad4US).

Overall, the requested budget would allow CISE to fund an estimated 8,300 research grants in FY23 (7,054 were funded in FY21), allowing for an estimated 26 percent funding rate. The directorate estimates that its activities will support a total of 21,900 people in FY23; that number includes senior researchers, other professionals, postdos, graduate students, and undergrads. Finally, CISE says that it provides about 79 percent of the federal funding for fundamental computer science research at U.S. academic institutions.

As for NSF’s newest directorate, the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP), the Biden Administration calls for $880 million for FY23. As with CISE, TIP doesn’t have a FY22 budget to compare against; however, the Administration did recommend $865 million in their budget request a year ago. In the TIP justification document, the directorate will, “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.” Within TIP’s request, $200 million is set aside to create “Regional Innovation Engines.” TIP’s goal with these “NSF Engines” is to, “create regional-scale innovation ecosystems throughout the U.S. and spur economic growth,” catalyzing, “new business and economic growth in those regions of America that have not fully participated in the technology boom of the past several decades.” TIP is also making major NSF-wide investments in, “emerging technologies to sustain and enhance U.S. competitiveness.” It should be no surprise that the largest single investment is for AI, with QIS, advanced wireless, and microelectronics and semiconductors being well represented.

How TIP will integrate with the existing R&RA directorates and the rest of the Foundation is still somewhat of an open question. The directorate could look and operate very different once Congress has its say in the matter. We will have to keep an eye on both how Congress sets the policy direction for TIP, as well as how the directorate is stood up.

As the saying goes, it feels like déjà vu all over again! For the second year President Biden has proposed large investments for NSF. The catch is, again, that Congress has to agree with this plan and then appropriate the funds. It didn’t exactly do that last year, even though NSF was lavished with bipartisan praise and attention. Hopefully, the USICA and COMPETES bills, which have slowly made their way through both chambers, will be conferenced and passed into law soon; that could give NSF a much needed push with Congressional appropriations. But we said much the same thing last year, so it’s best to keep hopes reasonable until we see more concrete actions taken by Congress.

But, as with last year’s request, this budget plan shows great confidence in NSF, and it is an excellent place for the FY23 budget process to begin. Next stop is the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, both of which should hold hearings on the agency’s budget soon and will then start drafting their bills. We can expect to get the first indications sometime in the summer. We’ll be keeping track, so please check back for more updates.

* Note about EHR: NSF is proposing changing the name of EHR to the Directorate for STEM Education (EDU) and rename the Division of Human Resource Development (HRD) within EDU to the Division of Equity for Excellence in STEM (EES). According to NSF this is to, “more accurately capture the totality of the Directorate’s work.” We’ll have to see if Congress will go along with this, even though it appears to be only a name change. It will likely be looked at by both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, as well as the authorizing committees with jurisdiction over NSF: the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee.

NSF FY2023 Request: Again, President Biden Calls for a Strong Vision for NSF’s Future Backed Up with a Robust Funding Increase