FY24 Budget Update: Initial Batch of Final Budgets Released; NSF to Receive Significant Cut

Over the weekend, Congressional appropriators released the initial batch of Fiscal Year 2024 funding legislation. This covers the parts of the Federal Government that are under a continuing resolution until this Friday, March 8th. While it is good that the end for a significant portion of the FY24 budget is in sight, the specifics are not good for the country’s researchers. As it turns out, many federal science agencies will receive cuts to their budget; with some, particularly the National Science Foundation, being significant.

In terms of covered research agencies, this current set of funding bills includes the budgets for NSF, NIST, NASA, and DOE. We will need to wait for the second group of funding bills to find out about the budgets for the Department of Defense research accounts and NIH. Those agencies are under a continuing resolution until March 22nd.

Let’s get into the details:

National Science Foundation

FY23 Final FY24 House FY24 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
NSF Total $9.90B $9.63B $9.50B $9.06B -$840M -8.5%
R&RA $7.80B $7.87B $7.60B $7.18B -$620M -7.9%
EDU $1.37B $1.01B $1.23B $1.17B -$200M -14.6%

There is no sugarcoating this news, this is a bad budget for NSF. But it does require some backstory to understand what is happening. Regular readers will recall that NSF received a historic increase for their Fiscal Year 2023 budget. However it was done in an unusual way. The funding was placed in the supplemental funding section of the FY23 Omnibus, not in the section that contains NSF’s baseline budget. That means, from a certain point of view, NSF’s baseline budget did not increase last year. However, the appropriators put language in the omnibus resetting NSF’s baseline to the higher number.

Fast forward to this week and the appropriators are setting NSF’s baseline back to the FY22 levels (which are: Total, $8.84B; RRA, $7.20B; and EDU, $1.01B). By that comparison, the agency’s topline and EDU budgets are getting slight increases, while RRA is mostly flat. However, keep in mind NSF is doing all the new operations within the TIP Directorate, which received the majority of NSF’s FY23 increase, so this is a real cut to NSF’s budget and its operations.

In terms of policy details, the appropriators say a lot of good things about NSF in the explanatory statements section of the FY24 budget documents. The appropriators support NSF’s work in artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, and notes the first awards with the NSF Engines program in the TIP Directorate. The statements also support NSF’s efforts with the NAIRR program. There are also no restrictions on any broadening participation efforts at the agency, which were included in the House written (though never advanced) funding legislation.

However, all this praise is for not with such a large cut to the agency’s budget. The point about the NSF Engines program is particularly noteworthy, as it’s unclear how NSF can run that program as envisioned and fund their core research programs at the levels specified by Congress. Something will have to give.

It’s hard to tell where this budget is coming from. The science policy community in Washington has been hearing all year from appropriators that, though “tough choices would have to be made,” NSF would be looked after. This appears more like NSF was overlooked in favor of other priorities. CRA is working with our friends and allies in the policy community to assess the situation, figure out what went wrong, and decide on next steps for the community.

National Institute of Standards & Technology

FY23 Final FY24 House FY24 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
NIST Total $1.63B $1.47B $1.45B $1.46B -$170M -10.4%
STRS $953M $1.02B $1.02BM $1.08B +$127M +13.3%

The situation with NIST’s budget is quite unusual and confusing. CRA is performing a topline budget comparison above, but that muddies the waters in understanding the full extent of what is happening at the agency. Congress has used NIST as a vehicle for lots of Congressional directed funding (meaning earmarks) for the last several years. That makes a year-to-year comparison of their budget very difficult. AIP’s FYI Budget Tracker has done the hard work of keeping track of the specifics.

When looking at the above chart, a data point to keep in mind: there were $300 million worth of earmarks in NIST’s FY24 topline budget, with $220 million in NIST STRS alone. Looking only at NIST’s base budget, according to AIP FYI, it will drop 8 percent to $1.16 billion. And the NIST construction account will be cut by a third. This isn’t great news for the agency, as it has a major maintenance backlog with its facilities.

In terms of policy direction, there are a bunch of good things said about the agency covering topics like AI, cybersecurity, quantum, and other matters. The appropriators even provide $10M for the new AI Safety Institute. But that is fairly cold comfort in light of such sobering budgets.


FY23 Final FY24 House FY24 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
NASA Total $25.4B $25.4B $25.0B $24.9B -$500M -2.0%
Science $7.80B $7.38B $7.34B $7.33B -$470M -6.0%

NASA Science was the hardest hit part of NASA’s budget. Reading through the explanatory statements, it appears that the Congressional appropriators have serious questions about how NASA is handling several major projects, particularly the Mars Sample Return mission (several paragraphs in the explanatory statement are devoted to the MSR alone). There is also this line in the explanatory statements: “The agreement notes that there has not been consultation with some Members of Congress about NASA’s decision to move forward with workforce reductions before a fiscal year 2024 bill was enacted and notes concern that NASA’s actions have contributed to serious losses in NASA’s high-skilled workforce.” This is likely in reference to announced layoffs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in early February, which caught many people off guard.

Department of Energy

FY23 Final FY24 House FY24 Senate FY24 Final $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $8.10B $8.10B $8.43B $8.24B +$140M +1.7%
ASCR $1.07B $1.02B $1.02B $1.02B -$50M -4.7%
ARPA-E $470M $470M $450M $460M -$10M -2.1%

If there is a “winner” in this batch of funding legislation, it would be the DOE research accounts; most of the programs within the Office of Science were flat funded or received slight cuts, with a few getting slight increase. These numbers are a compromise between the House’s flat funding ($8.10B) versus the Senate’s increase ($8.43B). The ASCR program in particular was set to get roughly the same budget in both the House and Senate plans. And ARPA-E receiving a relatively slight cut is to be expected in this budget environment.

In the explanatory statement for the Energy & Water accounts, the appropriators provided Senate levels of funding for DOE’s AI, machine learning, and QIS efforts within the Office of Science. They also provided FY23 level funding for the department’s FAIR and RENEW programs, whose aims are to expand and diversifying the researcher workforce and institutions that DOE works with; the House plan had zeroed out the budgets of these programs. There are no additional policy details or direction for ARPA-E.


The next step in the process is for both chambers to vote on these bills before sending them to the President for signing into law. The House is likely to go first and do so in the next few days. That sequence of events assumes no problems develop in the process, which means it is not an assured outcome, considering how Congress has operated over the last year. We will be watching for any unexpected developments closely.

This is not an ideal outcome to this budgetary year; in fact, FY24 has been a particularly zero-sum environment. Keep in mind, House Republicans had adopted the position, at the beginning of 2023, to cut overall Federal spending to FY22 levels. Given the push to cut overall federal spending by certain factions within Congress, this outcome is not entirely unexpected. And there are still the DOD research accounts and NIH to worry about in the second set of funding legislation. We will likely find out the details with those bills in the next week or so. But, even with those factors taken into account, we can’t escape the fact that these budgets are not good for the country’s researchers, particularly NSF’s community. CRA will have to make that clear in our communications with policymakers. Please check back to the CRA Policy Blog for the latest news.

FY24 Budget Update: Initial Batch of Final Budgets Released; NSF to Receive Significant Cut