FY23 Appropriations Update: Strong Budget Numbers for NSF, NIST, & NASA from Senate Appropriators; but How Likely Are They to Become Law?

In our continuing series looking at the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget, we turn to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Last week, the Democrats on the committee released their slate of appropriations bills, all at once. While this is significantly earlier than in past years, it’s also a political move: the bills only represent the Democratic priorities for the federal budget and have no input from Senate Republicans. We’ll get to the implications of that in a moment but what it means in the immediate is that the numbers for many of the research agencies that the computing cares are quite good, on the surface. In point of fact, the numbers in the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill, which contains the budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), are among the most robust and generous.

NSF, in particular, is a big winner under the Senate plan. The Foundation’s topline budget would receive $10.34 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion (+17 percent) over the FY22 number ($8.84 billion). That is almost as generous as the President’s 19 percent requested increase from March, and almost double the House’s mark of +8.9 percent.

Getting into the details of the Senate’s plans, the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, home to NSF’s research portfolio, would receive $8.30 billion for FY23. That would be an increase of $1.10 billion increase over FY22 enacted levels, or +15.3 percent. The Directorate for Education & Human Resources account (EHR), soon to be renamed the Directorate for STEM Education (EDU) (the name gets approval from Senate Appropriators in the committee’s explanatory statement), would receive a similarly generous increase of 28.7 percent, going from $1.01 billion in FY22 to $1.30 billion, with the Senate’s FY23 mark (+$290 million).

FY22 FY23 PBR FY23 House FY23 Senate $ Change % Change
NSF Total $8.84B $10.50B $9.63B $10.34B +$1.50B +17%
R&RA $7.20B $8.43B $7.71B $8.30B +$1.10B +15.3%
EHR/EDU $1.01B $1.38B $1.25B $1.30B +$290M +28.7%

Looking at policy items in the Committee’s report, there are several topics of interest. First, the Senate appropriators, much like their House counterparts, voiced their support for the newly created TIP Directorate and provided, “up to $200 million for the Regional Innovation Engines” program, saying the committee, “believes that NSF Engines will be transformative for communities across the country.” Additionally, the Committee supports the agency’s efforts in artificial intelligence and QIS, providing funding up to the President’s request in these areas. Finally, in a nod to the need for more regional diversity in research funding, the Senate appropriators provided EPSCoR, NSF’s program to build research capacity in states that do not receive the majority of the agency’s research funding, with $250 million, an increase of $35 million over FY22 enacted levels. The committee believes, “that good ideas and high-quality research are not bound to certain geographical areas but exist across the country.”

With regard to the other research agencies in this legislation, the National Institute of Standards & Technology’s (NIST) would receive a similarly healthy increase. The Senate’s plans for the agency would include a large increase, going from $1.23 billion in FY22 to $1.70 billion in FY23, a $470 million dollar increase (or +38 percent). Likewise, the Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see a push-up of +15 percent, going from $850 million in FY22 to $975 million for FY23, an increase of $125 million. While the Senate’s topline mark is well above the President’s request, the number for STRS is exactly what the Administration requested for the account.

FY22 FY23 PBR FY23 House FY23 Senate $ Change % Change
NIST Total $1.23B $1.48B $1.47B $1.70B +$470M +38%
STRS $850M $975M $953M $975M +$125M +15%

Finally, looking at NASA’s budget, the space agency would receive $26.0 billion, an increase of $1.9 billion from FY22 (+8.3 percent). The agency’s Science account would receive $8.00 billion, an increase of $431 million from FY22 (+5.3 percent). These numbers are more generous than the Administration’s request or the House appropriators’ mark.

FY22 FY23 PBR FY23 House FY23 Senate $ Change % Change
NASA Total $24.00B $26.00B $25.50B $26.00B +$1.90B +8.3%
Science $7.60B $7.99B $7.91B $8.00B +$431M +5.3%

Now, back to the politics question: do these numbers have a chance of becoming law? Unfortunately, it’s not likely. It goes back to the 50-50 split of the Senate: for any piece of legislation to move in the chamber, it requires some Republican support. Seeing as these bills and their budget numbers were put together without Republican support, it makes it very difficult for these bills to be passed into law. In all likelihood, we will have a repeat of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, namely long months of negotiations and then final budget numbers that are lower than any of the individual plans.

In the near term, we can definitely expect a Continuing Resolution to get us through the first few months of the approaching Fiscal Year (which begins on October 1st). After that, we must wait and see what happens in the Midterm Elections. The results of those elections will likely dictate when the final appropriation bills, or a single omnibus bill, or some combination, will get a final vote. We’ll be tracking events closely, so please keep checking back for updates.

FY23 Appropriations Update: Strong Budget Numbers for NSF, NIST, & NASA from Senate Appropriators; but How Likely Are They to Become Law?