Roundup of FY2025 Research Agency Requests: Complicated Situations Abound for the Requested Budgets of NIST, NASA, and NIH

In our continuing series following the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) budget request, we close out with a roundup of an assortment of Federal research agencies. These include the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and NASA.

As with the previous agencies we have looked at, we are comparing the President’s FY25 request to the final budget numbers in Fiscal Year 2024, approved by Congress in March. The agencies did not have finalized budgets for FY24 when they created their justifications, and instead compared their requested budgets to FY23. Please be aware of this as you read the original budget documents.

First, let’s look at NIST. This agency’s budget has become quite difficult to assess because Congress has used it for a large number of Congressionally directed funding (ie: earmarks) over the last several budget cycles, making a year-to-year comparison hard. We are comparing top line budget numbers here, though we provide some contexts where we can.

The top line for NIST is $1.50 billion, an increase of $40 million over FY24, or 2.7 percent. The institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see a decrease of 9.7 percent; going from $1.08 billion in FY24 to $975 million in FY25. STRS’s budget line is a good example the difficulties of making year-to-year comparison due to the earmark situation. When excluding earmarks, the program is actually increasing 13.7 percent (FY24 Final at $857 million vs FY25 PBR at $975 million).

In terms of what the agency is planning on doing with its funding, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, and laboratory maintenance figure heavily in the Administration’s plans. The agency is planning on increasing funding for AI research by $48 million and QIS by $14 million. With regard to AI, these funds will allow the agency to, “conduct…research; develop and conduct testing, evaluation, verification, and validation (TEVV) methods; develop technical guidance; facilitate development of standards; and implement best practices and frameworks.” With QIS, the extra funding will allow NIST to, “accelerating and expanding R&D efforts that underpin continued innovation and competitiveness for the rapidly growing U.S. quantum industry – including associated domestic supply chains –while meeting novel security threats posed by quantum technologies.”

While CRA has not historically tracked the “Construction of Research Facilities” (CRF) budget line, it is becoming an increasingly important part of NIST. This is due to the significant maintenance backlog that the agency is contending with. The Biden Administration is taking note and CRF received a significant infusion of funds, increasing the budget by 255 percent after earmarks are excluding. Since a maintenance backlog does not disappear in a year, we can expect CRF to continue to get attention from the agency for the next several years, assuming Congress provides funds to cut into the backlog. The research community needs to take note of this because it could have a long-term impact on the research accounts.

FY23 FY24 Final FY25 PBR $ Change % Change
NIST Total $1.63B $1.46B $1.50B +$40M +2.7%
STRS $953M $1.08B $975M -$105M -9.7%

The next agency we look at is NASA. Under the President’s plan, the space agency would receive a 2.0 percent increase, going from $24.9 billion in FY24 to $25.4 billion in FY25. While that is an increase against FY24, it is flat funding when compared to Fiscal Year 2023. As for NASA Science, which handles the research funding at the agency, would see a better percentage increase: 3.3 percent, going from $7.33 billion in FY24 to $7.57 billion in FY25. However, that increase would only partially restore the cuts made in the final FY24 budget to the program.

Unfortunately, the details of the NASA Science program are not great. While it does get an increase at the top line, there is quite a bit of movement of money within the subaccounts. Earth Sciences, Astrophysics, and Biological & Physical Sciences are increased, while Planetary Science and Heliophysics are decreased, as compared to FY23 levels. Much of these changes are due to the agency reorganizing or cancelling major missions. For example, the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission is a major part of Planetary Science’s budget and has been mired in delays and cost overruns, and is being threatened with cancellation by Congress. The Administration is providing funding to the mission to enable, “internal assessment of mission architecture options to be completed to address mission cost overruns.”

FY23 FY24 Final FY25 PBR $ Change % Change
NASA Total $25.4B $24.9B $25.4B +$500M +2.0%
Science $7.80B $7.33B $7.57B +$240M +3.3%

Finally, we come to the National Institutes of Health. Under the President’s plan, the agency would go from $48.68 billion in FY24 to $50.12 billion in FY25, an increase of $1.44 billion or 3.0 percent. Meanwhile, ARPA-H, or the Advanced Research Project Agency, Health, would be flat funded at $1.50 billion.

The flat funding of ARPA-H is surprising, given its popularity in Congress and that it has been an Administration priority in the previous fiscal years. Instead, the Administration is focusing on their Cancer Moonshot program and a new “White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research,” which proposes to, “better integrate women’s health within the Federal research portfolio and catalyze significant private and philanthropic commitments to increase funding for women’s health research.” The initiative will also, “double existing funding for the Office of Research on Women’s Health at NIH.”

ARPA-H is continuing to focus its research efforts within “Increasing Accessibility and Expanding Scale,” “Artificial Intelligence, and Health Ecosystem Cybersecurity,” and the afore mentioned Cancer Moonshot program.

FY23 FY24 Final FY25 PBR $ Change % Change
NIH Total $47.50B $48.68B $50.12B +$1.44B +3.0%
ARPA-H $1.5B $1.5B $1.5B $0 0%

As with the other research accounts we’ve profiled, it’s worth tempering any expectations, positive or negative. It is already expected that Congress will not finish FY25 by the time the current fiscal year ends, which is September 30th. In fact, the expectation here in Washington is the budget won’t be voted on until after the November Presidential election at the earliest, and likely not until the 2025 calendar year. And the outcome of that election will heavily influence how FY25 is finalized. Any final numbers for these agencies are guesswork at the moment.

Next steps in the FY25 budget process are for each chamber of Congress to come up with their individual funding plans. That process should begin soon. We’ll have updates as those bills become public; keep checking back for more information.

Roundup of FY2025 Research Agency Requests: Complicated Situations Abound for the Requested Budgets of NIST, NASA, and NIH