Today, the Biden Administration released some details of their $6.9 trillion budget request for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24). As has happened the last several years, the numbers released today are only high-level numbers for some agencies and lack finer details of directorates and programs at the assorted federal departments and agencies. More details are expected to be released in the coming days and weeks. In spite of the lack of 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.
Many of the general themes of this budget proposal are the same as with previous budgets from the Biden Administration. The Administration continues to focus on climate change; health and pandemic readiness programs; scientific innovation in critical and emerging technologies; and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
The President’s FY24 proposal calls for $886.4 billion for defense-related programs, which is $28 billion more than current levels (or a 3.3 percent increase); and $809.1 billion for domestic spending, which is $49.2 billion more than FY23 (or a 6.5 percent increase). That non-defense programs received a larger increase than defense programs will likely not be greeted warmly by many in Congress. Defense hawks on Capitol Hill have been pushing for higher levels of defense spending in order to confront more threats like China, Russia, and other areas in the world. This difference in the two pots of money will likely be a continuing talking point throughout the budgetary process.
Implementation of the recently pass Chips and Science Act features prominently in the Administration’s request and justification. The President’s plan provides, “$25 billion, an increase of approximately $6.5 billion from the 2023 enacted level, for…authorized activities;” that amount is distributed among several agencies, with, “$11.3 billion at the National Science Foundation, $8.8 billion at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, [and] $1 billion at NIST.”
Let’s get into the details that were released:
National Science Foundation: Topline $11.3 billion, an increase of $1.40 billion, or 14 percent, over FY23 Omnibus levels. As with last year’s President’s request, NSF is the big winner among the science agencies. The Administration specifically calls out NSF as playing, “a key role in the CHIPS and Science Act with its focus on U.S. leadership in new technologies—from artificial intelligence to biotechnology and computing—all of which are critical to both America’s future economic competitiveness and U.S. national security.”
Unfortunately, numbers for Research and Related Activities (RRA) and the STEM Education Directorate (EDU) were not included in the information that was released today. Likewise, a topline number for the CISE Directorate was not released. However, many topics that fall under CISE’s mission do get mentioned. Under the heading, “Fosters Scientific and Technological Advances,” the President’s request provides, “$2 billion for research and development to maintain America’s edge in the industries of tomorrow, including advanced manufacturing, advanced wireless, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, microelectronics and semiconductors, and quantum information science.” Specifics on the $2 billion were not included.
Some details were released for the Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate, including a topline number. TIP would receive $1.2 billion under the President’s plan; that would make it one of the highest funded directorates within RRA (compared to last year’s requested numbers). It’s hard to tell just yet if this is an increase over last year’s budget, as NSF hasn’t released budget numbers for FY22 or FY23 for TIP. However, it is likely an increase as Congress approved of NSF’s plans for TIP and encouraged them to move forward. Some additional details, TIP’s Regional Innovation Engines program is specifically cited to receive $300 million; the Engines program brings, “together State and local governments, institutions of higher education, labor unions, businesses, and community-based organizations across the Nation to galvanize use-inspired research, technology translation, and workforce development.”
Department of Energy, Office of Science: Topline $8.8 billion, an increase of $700 million or 8.6 percent over FY23 Omnibus levels. Unfortunately, like with NSF, details for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, home to most of SCs computing research programs, and the Advanced Research Project Agency -Energy (ARPA-E) were not included.
The budget document identifies several areas that the department plans to focus its investments: “support cutting-edge research at the national laboratories and universities and building and operating world-class scientific user facilities; advance the Nation’s understanding of climate change; identify and accelerate novel technologies for clean energy solutions, including a historic $1 billion investment in the acceleration of efforts to achieve fusion…; provide new computing insight through quantum information science and artificial intelligence that addresses scientific challenges; expanding innovation in the microelectronics ecosystem; leverage data, analytics, and computational infrastructure to strengthen and support U.S. biodefense and pandemic preparedness strategies and plans; and position the United States to meet the demand for isotopes.”
NASA: Topline $27.2 billion, an increase of $1.8 billion or 7.1 percent over FY23 levels. The justification for the space agency’s FY24 budget is to, “supports human and robotic exploration of the Moon; invests in new technologies to improve the Nation’s space capabilities; and promotes cutting-edge Earth-observing satellites and green aviation research to help address pressing environmental challenges.” Details for the NASA Science program were not included.
Agencies toplines not included in today’s release:
• National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
• National Institutes of Health (NIH)
• Department of Defense Research – Defense Secretary Austin put out a press release; saying details will be released on Monday March 13th.
What happens now? More details should be released early next week. After that, the budget process heads to both chambers of Congress for deliberations. While these initial numbers look very good, it’s important to keep our expectations in check. This fiscal year is expected to be long and very rocky. The Republican led House of Representatives has vowed to cut budgets back to Fiscal Year 2022 levels. Their view is federal spending has gotten out of hand and needs to be pared back. It’s unclear how the Senate will operate but it will depend heavily on how many Republican Senators share their House counterparts’ views and demand budget cuts. We have heard from several sources that hard budget decisions will need to be made this year, and the research community should expect some bad budget numbers from Congress, particularly from the House. But at this time, it’s difficult to know how the budget process will play out.
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.