FY23 Appropriations Update: Like Last Year, the House’s Defense Research Budget is Better than the Administration’s but that Doesn’t Mean It’s Good

Congress has begun the yearly appropriations process, divvying up tax-payer dollars to the assorted federal agencies for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). As is the norm, the House Appropriations Committee has begun its work first. As we have done in years past, CRA will be examining the House and Senate’s budget plans for each federal research agency of note to the computing community and providing a summary. The first agency to check is the Department of Defense (DOD) and the House’s defense appropriations bill.

Taking a step back, 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. Regular readers will recall that the Administration’s requested budget from March was not good. Unfortunately, the House appropriators’ plan, while better than what the Administration proposed, isn’t an objectively good budget. This is very similar to what happened with last year’s House bill for the defense research accounts.

Under the House’s plan, Basic Research (6.1) would receive a significant cut of 5.8 percent compared to its FY22 levels. The account would decrease from $2.76 billion in FY22 to $2.60 billion for FY23, a reduction of $160 million. There is no good news in the details: only the Air Force’s 6.1 subaccount would receive an increase for FY23 under the House’s plan. And, digging a little deeper into the details, none of the individual service’s “University Research Initiative” subaccounts would see plus ups, only cuts.

Despite the decrease compared to FY22, the 6.1 topline does represent an increase when compared to the President’s budget request. Using that number for comparison would have the account increasing by 9.4 percent.

The Applied Research (6.2) account is in much the same shape; objectively bad compared to last year’s budget but good compared to the Administration’s request. The full account would see a 4.9 percent cut compared to last year’s budget, decreasing from $6.91 billion in FY22 to $6.57 billion under the House’s plan (a loss of $340 million). But that is 13.4 percent more than POTUS’ requested budget from March.

Finally, the Advanced Technology Development (6.3) account would be flat funded for Fiscal Year 2023 under the House’s framework. It would go from $9.22 billion in FY22 to $9.16 billion in FY23, a cut of $60 million (or -0.7 percent). As with the other accounts, when compared against the President’s request, the House numbers are 10.5 percent better than the the President’s.

DARPA is the one account that does worse under the House’s budget plan in comparison to the President’s mark; also, it’s the only account that would receive an increase. The agency’s budget would increase from $3.87 billion in FY22 to $4.06 billion in FY23, an increase of 4.9 percent (or +$190 million). President Biden had recommended $4.12 billion for the research agency, which would have been a 6.5 percent increase.

FY22 FY23 PBR FY23 House $ Change % Change
DOD 6.1 $2.76B $2.23B $2.60B -$160M -5.8%
DOD 6.2 $6.91B $5.79B $6.57B -$340M -4.9%
DOD 6.3 $9.22B $8.29B $9.16B -$60M -0.7%
DARPA $3.87B $4.12B $4.06B +$190M +4.9%

While the House has mitigated some of the impact of the President’s proposed cuts, their plan would still roll back budgets in research accounts relative to FY22. This is almost identical to what happened last year; a recurring theme for this fiscal year. As with last year, CRA and our colleagues in the research advocacy community will continue to make the case that support for these fundamental and applied research lines are critical to ensuring the Defense Department has the technology base it needs to meet the threats we face now and in the future.

What happens next? The bill was approved by the full House Appropriations Committee on June 22nd. It now heads to the full House for consideration, where it is likely to be passed quickly. Then we will have to wait. The general view in the Washington research policy community is that the Senate will likely not act on their own appropriations bill until after the November Midterm Elections. This is looking to be a very long year for the Federal budget process; please keep checking back for more updates.

FY23 Appropriations Update: Like Last Year, the House’s Defense Research Budget is Better than the Administration’s but that Doesn’t Mean It’s Good