At the end of July, the Senate Appropriations Committee completed its work on its slate of Fiscal Year 2024 funding legislation. One of the last bills the committee voted on was their version of the Defense appropriations bill, which handles funding for the Department of Defense. With regard to research funding, the Senate’s plans are very good for basic, fundamental research, particularly for university research; but pretty bad in the applied and advanced technology development areas.
As a refresher, DOD’s Science and Technology 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. DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is a section under the Defense Wide account.
The Senate’s plan is quite good for the defense basic research. Basic Research (6.1), which is the main Defense Department supporter of fundamental research at US universities, would receive a significant increase of 10.3 percent compared to its FY23 levels. Under the Senate’s plan, the account goes from $2.92 billion in FY23 to $3.22 billion for FY24, an increase of $300 million. That increase is fueled by plus-ups in the services’ “University Research Initiative” subaccounts: the Army’s subaccount increases by 64 percent, the Navy’s increases by 33 percent, and Air Force’s increases by 36 percent, and even the Space Force received a significant increase (281 percent) for its second year of funding for its research portfolio. The one exception to the good 6.1 news is the Defense-Wide account, which received an overall cut of about 7.0 percent.
The Applied Research (6.2) account is in a different spot, with a significant cut in funding under the Senate’s mark. The full account would see an 8.5 percent decrease compared to last year’s budget, going from $7.80 billion in FY23 to $7.14 billion under the Senate’s plan, a reduction of $660 million.
The Advanced Technology Development (6.3) account would also receive a significant cut under the Senate’s budget framework. It would go from $11.71 billion in FY23 to $10.00 billion in FY24, a decrease of $1.71 billion (or -14.6 percent).
Finally, DARPA would be flat funded under the Senate legislation. The agency would go from $4.06 billion in FY23 to $4.09 billion in FY24, an increase of less than 1.0 percent, or just $30 million.
|FY23||FY24 PBR||FY24 House||FY24 Senate||$ Change||% Change|
While not perfect, the Senate’s budget mark is in sharp contrast to the other budget plans that have been proposed for the defense research accounts. The President’s budget request included cuts to all three S&T accounts, with 6.1 being reduced by 15 percent, 6.2 reduced by 23 percent, and 6.3 reduced by 20 percent. DARPA was the only account to escape cuts under the President’s plan and would increase by 6.5 percent. The details of the House plan were an improvement on the Administration’s request budget but not by much: cuts of 13.4 percent for 6.1; 13.7 percent for 6.2; 13.4 percent for 6.3. And DARPA would have seen an increase of 1.5 percent.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved their Defense legislation on July 27th; the bill now heads to the full chamber for consideration. It’s unclear when that will happen, but it will be after the Senate comes back from its August recess. It’s hard to say where a final defense research budget will ultimately settle. The House and Senate are far apart with their budget plans, but defense spending is one of the few areas that the two chambers agree is important. But given the complex politics, particularly within the House chamber, it’s expected that Fiscal Year 2024 will take a lot of time and effort to close out. Talk of a months-long continuing resolution(s), and even a possible government lapse in funding (ie: a government shutdown), has already begun. CRA will continue to monitor the situation and report on any new develops; please keep checking back for the latest news.