FY24 Appropriations Update: Senate Marks for NSF, NIST, NASA Released; NSF Would Receive Cut in Line with May Budget Agreement

[Editor’s Note: This post was written by CRA’s new Tisdale Policy Fellow for Summer 2023, Fatima Morera Lohr.]

In our ongoing series covering the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, we turn to the Senate Appropriations Committee. In an unusual move, the Senate appropriators got ahead of their House counterparts and released several proposed pieces of funding legislation, with the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill being one of them. This bill is of most concern to the computing research community, as it contains the budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and NASA. The Senate numbers in this funding legislation are in line with the nondefense funding targets set in the May Debt Limit Agreement; which is to say that the agencies generally received flat funding or cuts. Let’s get into the details.

First, NSF’s budget requires some explanation, particularly what the Senate appropriators are using as the agency’s FY23 baseline budget. Regular readers will recall that NSF received the majority of its historic, FY23 budget increase in the supplemental section of last year’s Omnibus bill. However, the Senate is not using the full funding that NSF received in FY23 as its baseline for comparison to FY24; they are ignoring the Chips Act supplemental funding, which accounts for about $335 million. When comparing the Senate FY24 mark to the FY23 levels, minus the supplemental funding, NSF appears to be flat funded under the Senate’s plans. However, when compared against the total funds NSF received in FY23, the cut is much deeper. In this article, we will compare the Senate numbers to the full amount that NSF received in FY23.

Under the Senate’s plan, NSF would receive a four percent cut, going from $9.90 billion in FY23, to $9.50 billion in FY24, a loss of $400 million. This is significantly less than the President’s proposed budget of $11.30 billion, released in March.

The cuts to NSF’s topline are not felt evenly at the agency. The Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, which houses the agency’s research portfolio, would receive $7.61 billion for FY24, which is a cut of 2.5 percent or $200 million. The Directorate for STEM Education (EDU) would receive $1.23 billion, which represents a decrease of $140 million from FY23, or -10.2 percent. These numbers are below what the Administration requested in its budget plan earlier this year.

FY23 FY24 PBR FY24 Senate $ Change % Change
NSF Total $9.90B $11.30B $9.50B -$400M -4.0%
R&RA $7.80B $9.03B $7.60B -$200M -2.5%
EHR/EDU $1.37B $1.44B $1.23B -$140M -10.2%

The funding policy provisions in the Committee’s report contain several items of importance to the computing research community. Within the report, the Committee expressed their support for the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) and provided up to $200 million for the Regional Innovation Engines; that is $100 million less than what was recommended in the agency’s budget request. In addition, the Committee also supports the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) providing, “no less than $275 million,” and directing to NSF to provide, “to the maximum extent practicable,” 16 percent of NSF research funding and 18 percent of scholarship funding to EPSCoR states. EPSCoR is NSF’s program to set aside funding for states that do not receive the majority of the agency’s funding, and has been a major Congressional priority for the last few years. The committee was also supportive of NSF’s efforts in artificial intelligence, quantum information science and high performance computing, as well as the agency’s broadening participation efforts.

Among the other research agencies in the legislation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would be hit harder under the Senate’s plan. NIST would receive $1.45 billion for FY24, an 11 percent decrease, or $180 million less than it received in FY23 ($1.63 billion). On the other hand, the Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS), would receive $1.02 billion, an increase of $67 million,or +7.0 percent, over FY23. STRS contains the majority of the agency’s research portfolio. NIST’s total budget is below what was requested for the next fiscal year, while STRS’ is above the amount requested by the Biden Administration.

FY23 FY24 PBR FY24 Senate $ Change % Change
NIST Total $1.63B $1.63B $1.45B -$180M -11%
STRS $953M $995M $1.02B +$67M +7%

Finally, NASA’s budget is also looking at a decrease under the Senate’s plans. At the topline, NASA would receive $25 billion for FY24, a decrease of $400 million from FY23 levels (-1.50 percent). The agency’s Science account would be hit much harder than the topline, receiving $7.34 billion under the Senate’s mark, a decrease of -5.9 percent, or $460 million, from FY23 ($7.8 billion). The justification for the large cut to the NASA Science account, given in the Committee’s report, is to, “keep NASA’s near-term launches on track to continue progress in exploring our solar system and the universe, understanding the Sun, and observing our changing planet.”

FY23 FY24 PBR FY24 Senate $ Change % Change
NASA Total $25.4B $27.2B $25.0B -$400M -1.5%
Science $7.80B $8.26B $7.34B -$460M -5.9%

The CJS bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 13th; it is unclear when it will be considered by the full Senate chamber. We are still waiting on the House Appropriations Committee to release the details of their CJS funding bill, but the expectation is that it will be made public in the next few days. As we have mentioned in previous articles about the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, the House and Senate are likely to be far apart with their funding plans. That will make closing out FY24 very difficult, and the politics surrounding federal spending will only make finishing the budget harder. We will have to allow the process to play out more before we have any clarity on the endgame for FY24. We will be monitoring the situation for any developments, so please check back for updates.

FY24 Appropriations Update: Senate Marks for NSF, NIST, NASA Released; NSF Would Receive Cut in Line with May Budget Agreement