In our continuing series of posts on the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget request, we turn to the National Science Foundation. As he has done the past two years, President Biden proposes a strong budget for NSF, doubling down on the Chips and Science Act and the historic budget increase the agency received in the FY23 Omnibus.
Under the Administration’s FY24 plan, NSF would see a 14 percent increase compared to the FY23 Omnibus. NSF would go from $9.90 billion in FY23 to $11.3 billion in FY24, an increase of $1.40 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 $7.80 billion in FY23 to $9.03 billion in FY24, a plus up of $1.23 billion (or 16 percent). The STEM Education Directorate (EDU), which contains the agency’s education programs, would also see an increase of $70 million, going from $1.37 billion in FY23 to $1.44 billion under the President’s FY24 plan; that’s an increase of 5.1 percent.
The requested budget would allow NSF to fund an estimated 40,900 research grants in FY24 (32,100 were funded in FY22), allowing for a 26 percent funding rate. The agency estimates that its activities will support a total of 398,130 people in FY24; that number includes senior researchers, other professionals, postdos, graduate students, and undergrads.
|FY22||FY23||FY24 PBR||$ Change||% Change|
The Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE), located within R&RA, and the home for most of the computing research support at NSF, will receive a significant increase. It would go from an estimate of $1.05 billion in FY23 to $1.17 billion for FY24, an increase of $120 million or 11.4 percent.
According to the program’s budget justification, CISE will, “continue to play a leadership role in Advancing Emerging Industries for National and Economic Security through seminal investments in AI, advanced computing systems and services including high-performance computing (HPC), quantum information science (QIS), advanced communications technologies, advanced manufacturing, semiconductors and microelectronics, biotechnology, cybersecurity, and disaster response and resilience.” In a briefing with CRA staff, CISE AD Margaret Martonosi pointed out the major investments CISE plans to focus on in the coming year. These include:
Advanced Wireless Research – CISE will, “invest in research in advanced wireless networks,” to enable, “early-stage successes in 5G through groundbreaking millimeter-wave research.” The directorate will also partner with the private sector and other federal agencies to, “accelerate research in areas with potential significant impact on emerging NextGeneration (NextG) wireless and mobile communications, networking, sensing, and computing systems.” This area would receive a 5.1 percent increase over FY23 estimated funding levels.
Artificial Intelligence – CISE is proposing a 13.1 percent increase for AI research in their FY24 budget portfolio, with a key focus being the AI Research Institutes. CISE plans to, “significantly broaden participation in AI research, education, and workforce development through capacity development projects such as ExpandAI, through CISE core investments, and through partnerships within the National AI Research Institutes ecosystem.” As for the funding for the National AI Research Institutes themselves, CISE plans on providing a 70 percent increase over FY23 estimated levels; this coincides with the first research institutes coming up for possible renewal.
CSGrad4US Graduate Fellowships – With a large 47.1 percent increase, CISE plans to, “support early-career individuals with the demonstrated potential to be high-achieving CISE researchers and innovators, with the goal of developing the national workforce necessary to ensure the Nation’s continued leadership in advancing CISE research and innovation” through the CSGrad4US program. Within this fellowship program, CISE, “aims to increase the number and diversity of domestic graduate students pursuing graduate degrees and research and innovation careers in the CISE fields…and broaden participation among groups underrepresented,” in the computing research field.”
Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) – “CISE will continue to lead SaTC in partnership,” with other NSF directorates, “investing in current and emerging areas of importance for security and privacy.” Additionally, CISE will fund, “programs that strengthen the national cybersecurity workforce pipeline through education, K-12 programs, and funding to universities and colleges.”
The directorate’s plans will also align, “with an agency-wide emphasis on Creating Opportunities Everywhere,” and, “CISE will continue to invest in a broad suite of activities to support broadening participation in research and education in (CS) fields and STEM more generally.” Specifically called out are CISE’s Broadening Participation in Computing Alliances (BPC-A), CISE-MSI program, and CISE Graduate Fellowships (CSGrad4US).
NSF’s newest directorate, TIP, or the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships enjoys continued priority in the budget request. The Biden Administration calls for $1.20 billion for FY24, which would be a 36 percent increase over its budget estimate for Fiscal Year 2023, which is $880 million. TIP received special attention in the President’s budget roll out, as it figures heavily in the Administration’s priorities, and was specifically called out, “to help accelerate and translate scientific research into innovations, industries, and jobs.”
According to TIP’s budget justification, 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.” TIP’s major program, the Regional Innovation Engines, or “NSF Engines,” would receive $300 million under the Administration’s budget plan, an increase of $100 million over FY23 estimates. Additionally, the Convergence Accelerator would receive a 43 percent increase in order to regionalize the program and, “initiating investment in regional anchors and teams pursuing technology solutions to pressing location-specific challenges.”
In terms of new programs that TIP is getting off the ground, the directorate would focus on two programs. The first is the Accelerating Public & Private Partnerships program to, “provide co-funding to incentivize the scale-up of strategic, high-impact public and private partnerships that will in turn deepen and advance NSF’s mission across all areas of science, engineering, and education.” The other would be the Accelerating Research Translation (ART), which will, “support institutions of higher education that wish to build infrastructure needed to boost their institutional capacity to accelerate the pace and scale of translational research.”
TIP would also have an education dimension to their portfolio in order to provide, “opportunities for everyone to engage in the Nation’s R&D enterprise.” Central to that is the directorate’s Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT) program, which will, “support inclusive experiential learning opportunities designed to provide cohorts of diverse learners with the crucial skills needed to succeed in key technology focus areas and prepare them to enter the workforce.” TIP will also continue the NSF Entrepreneurial Fellowship and I-Corps programs.
TIP will continue to, “collaborate with NSF’s other directorates and offices as well as with other federal agencies,” in order to, “advance use-inspired, solutions-oriented research and innovation in key technology focus area.”
Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Estimates:
The President’s budget request has given the community its first opportunity to see how NSF plans to use it historic budget increase in Fiscal Year 2023 (ie: the current fiscal year’s budget). In the agency’s plan, they are investing heavily in the TIP Directorate, while still providing increases to the other RRA Directorates.
Looking at the FY23 estimated budget numbers in the agency’s request, TIP is estimated to receive $430 million of RRA’s $600 million increase; that would more than double the directorate’s FY22 budget ($413 million in FY22; $880 million in FY23). That increase would include the $210 million that Congress set aside for Chips Act implementation, as well as an additional $220 million. CISE would receive a $40 million increase, going from $1.01 billion in FY22 to $1.05 billion in FY23, or a 4 percent increase. The other directorates within RRA would receive increases similar in size to CISE’s.
Given the relatively modest appropriation NSF received in FY22 while standing up the TIP directorate, it’s not surprising that much of the priority for the increase provided in FY23 went to bolster the establishment of TIP and give it the kind of funding necessary to fulfill its mission, especially given all the congressional and Administration interest in the new Directorate and the set-aside dollars they provided for Chips Act implementation. Having a well-supported directorate with TIP’s mission will also be good for the field – and the country – and not just because it provides opportunities for computing researchers to find additional sources of support beyond the CISE directorate. TIP aims to address a weak point in the federal research ecosystem – the transition of research results to lab and to market – and that focus ought to create opportunities for computing researchers to contribute in significant ways. But while it’s likely that TIP will continue to enjoy priority in the agency’s budget, we also need to continue to ensure that investments in fundamental research, in computing and across the fields, are robust and sustainable, as the benefits of those investments fuel the innovation engine that TIP is trying to help stoke.
For another year, President Biden has shown great confidence in NSF and proposed a strong budget for the agency. However, it is important to keep expectations in check, as the political situation this year makes it very unlikely that Congress will agree with all of the Administration’s plans. The going view in Washington right now is that any FY24 budget coming out of Congress will be late, at best; and there is a serious chance at a dreaded year-long continuing resolution or a lapse in government funding (ie: a shutdown). We’ll have to let the process play out more before we know anything for certain; please keep checking back for more updates.