Computing Research Policy Blog
Last week the National Science Foundation released their long-anticipated guidelines covering their internal guidance for research security data-related practices. In their announcement, NSF said these, “guidelines are one of several NSF activities demonstrating that the principles of open science can align with research security standards.” The guidelines were released on the website of the Office of Chief of Research Security Strategy and Policy (OCRSSP).
Research Security, defined by NSF as, “safeguarding of the U.S. enterprise against the misappropriation of research and development,” has become an issue of importance in government circles, particularly in Congress, over the past few years. Several parts of the Federal Government have taken steps to counter threats, and perceived threats, from foreign adversaries, with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran being the main countries of concern. There are several examples of these efforts, such as the Department of Justice now shuttered “China Initiative;” several pieces of legislation, such as the Chips and Science Act, passed by Congress directing Federal research agencies to develop policies and procedures to combat these threats; and in the closing days of the Trump Administration, National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 (NSPM-33), directing OSTP to develop guidance to clear up conflicts of interest, so research agencies know where researchers are receiving support, while also providing a framework of penalties for deliberate noncompliance or evasion of these requirements. Much of these efforts are directed at the Chinese central government, who is seen as both the main geopolitical rival to the United States and a country engaged in exfiltration of US taxpayer funded research efforts and findings.
Hence NSF’s research security announcement. The guidelines prohibit NSF program officers from engaging with principal investigators (PIs) directly on any research security matters. Instead, NSF staff are required to forward any concerns to the OCRSSP, who will look into the discrepancies. As well, OCRSSP will not engage directly with PIs; instead, they will engage with the PI’s institution (Section 6.2, page 10). Within the document, NSF makes a point that OCRSSP’s use of these analytics are designed only to identify, “potential compliance inconsistencies,” and are not actual “investigations.” Investigations are considered part of the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) mission and are more serious. There is particular emphasis that “human oversight” (Section 10, page 15) is present at all levels of analysis and must be well documented; “no information on individuals may be reported and no adverse action may be taken based solely on a potential inconsistency without human verification of the matching criteria.” Finally, in Section 8 (page 12), which covers permissible and prohibited practices, OCRSSP staff are not allowed to make inquiries that are, “explicitly or implicitly designed to return the identities of individuals of a specific national origin or racial identity.” There are several examples included in Section 8 on prohibited practices.
It appears that NSF has struck a careful balance with their guidelines. It restricts activities between NSF and the institutions, sparing PIs from dealing with NSF directly or with a heavy-handed OIG investigation, while being very clear on permissible and prohibited practices by OCRSSP and NSF program staff. The prohibition on broad racial, ethnic, or citizenship searches should satisfy a key concern about the agency’s research security efforts (ie: that they could easily be fueled by racial or ethnic profiling), while also keeping humans in the loop for oversight. In practice, how the research community responds to these new practices will depend on how OCRSSP staff conduct themselves in clearing up the discrepancies they find. But it appears, at the moment, that the right guardrails are in place. CRA will continue to monitor the situation and keep tabs on how the other research agencies roll out their research security plans in the near future.
Over the weekend, President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy (R-CA) agreed to a deal over the nation’s debt limit and federal spending. That deal, and its accompanying legislation, is quickly approaching its fate, with a vote late Wednesday in the House of Representatives. That is the make-or-break point; if the legislation can’t pass the closely divided House, it will not make it through the even more closely divided Senate. But what is in this legislation?
The deal that was struck has impacts on the Federal budget. Both the White House and House Republicans released breakdowns of what was agreed to. As with past budget deals, it keeps the defense vs nondefense pots of federal spending. Non-defense spending will be kept “roughly flat” for Fiscal Year 2024 (ie: the year that starts on Oct 1 and is currently being worked on by Congress) and will increase by 1 percent for FY2025. Defense spending will increase by 3.3 percent for FY2024 and 1 percent for FY2025. There are no caps set after FY2025, only, “non-enforceable appropriations targets,” according to the White House document.
As a bit of an aside: there is also an unusual section of the legislation which imposes a 1 percent cut on current Federal funding in the event a continuing resolution is passed by Congress. Given that Congress has consistently not been able to pass the federal budget on time, we are likely to see this happen come October 1st.
Perhaps of most significance for a “debt limit deal,” it also suspends the nation’s debt limit until the 2025 calendar year, bypassing next year’s Presidential election.
Finally, the deal also has several provisions unrelated to the nation’s debt limit or the overall Federal budget. These include such things as work requirements for people on food assistance programs, fast-track approval of a West Virginia natural gas pipeline, protecting veterans’ healthcare spending, cuts to the IRS’ budget, and rescinding unspent COVID related spending, among other provisions.
How does this impact research funding: while the deal doesn’t explicitly cut scientific research, it makes a difficult budget situation worse. With nondefense spending, which includes most of the federal research funding portfolio, kept flat for this coming fiscal year, it will make fully funding the Chips & Science Act more unlikely. Science had a particularly good write-up on the impacts, with reactions from people within the science policy community.
But will the deal be passed into law? It’s hard to tell at this point. There is a lot of grumbling on both sides: Progressive Democrats feel it cuts too much from social programs; Freedom Caucus Republicans feel it doesn’t cut spending enough; defense hawks feel defense spending is too constrained; and environmentalists are unhappy with this fast-track approval for natural gas pipeline. One way of looking at it is this is natural grumbling to a compromise where everyone got something, but not everything. Or it could be the beginning of the legislation’s demise and the nation defaulting on its debt; with Congress so closely divided, it’s hard to say at the moment. The House will be voting on it today and all eyes in Washington are watching the proceedings closely. We’ll update should events change.
UPDATE 6/2/23: The Senate passed the debt limit deal last night, sending it to President Biden’s desk for signing into law. During floor consideration in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) issued a joint statement and had it included in the Congressional Record:
JOINT STATEMENT FROM SENATE LEADERS
We share the concern of many of our colleagues about the potential impact of sequestration and we will work in a bipartisan, collaborative way to avoid this outcome.
Now that we have agreed on budget caps, we have asked Appropriations Committee Chair Senator Murray and Vice Chair Senator Collins to set the subcommittee caps and get the regular order process started.
To accomplish our shared goal of preventing sequestration, expeditious floor consideration will require cooperation from Senators from both parties. The Leaders look forward to bills being reported out of committee with strong bipartisan support. The Leaders will seek and facilitate floor consideration of these bills with the cooperation of Senators of both parties.
Schumer, in additional remarks, went further, saying that this legislation (edited for brevity): “does nothing to limit the Senate’s ability to appropriate emergency/supplemental funds to ensure our military capabilities are sufficient to…respond to ongoing and growing national security threats, including Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine, our ongoing competition with China…or any other emerging security crisis; nor does this…limit the Senate’s ability to appropriate emergency/supplemental funds to respond to various national issues, such as disaster relief, or combating the fentanyl crisis, or other issues of national importance.”
News reports are categorizing the joint statement and Senator Schumer’s remarks as essential to get defense hawks to back the deal. But what do these statements do in relation to what was just passed into law?
Put simply, Congress can pass a new law that suspends previously enacted legislation. In this case, the Senate could pass supplemental funding bills that suspends or go around these agreed-to caps. But such legislation would then have to move to the House of Representatives, controlled by Speaker McCarthy and the Republican House Caucus, for consideration. In all likelihood, the House would not agree to such a move, calling it a violation of the debt limit deal, and the legislation would be dead. Of course, the House could surprise everyone and agree to such a move, suspending the deal that was just agreed on. Again, there is no law Congress can pass that it can’t suspend, as long as both chambers agree (and the President will sign into law).
This doesn’t mean these caps aren’t in place, or that they can be ignored out-of-hand. What it means is that going around or suspending the caps will require another agreement between the President, House Republicans, and the Senate. It’s an exit clause, of sorts, but not an easy one to use. We’ve been through this before with past budget-debt-limit deals, where funding caps were suspended or raised. The unfortunate reality is that the research community will have to cope with two years of budget caps again. On the brighter side, if past is prologue, there will likely be another grand budget deal negotiated at the end of the year (though such an outcome is not guaranteed). We’ll keep following the federal budget and will report on any new developments, so please keep checking back for updates.
The Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI), a coalition of American universities, scientific societies, and high-tech companies, released a letter today calling on the leaders of both Congressional Appropriation Committees to provide, “strong investments in science research, innovation, and workforce development,” in the coming Fiscal Year 2024 budget. The letter was signed by several leaders of TFAI members, including Nancy Amato, Chair of the CRA Board of Directors. Other signers include leaders from Google, Microsoft, AMD, SIA, and IBM to name a few.
As Congress and the President’s attention are increasingly dominated by the debt limit debate, it’s important that the community continue the drumbeat that investments in the federal research enterprise are essential for the competitiveness and wellbeing of the nation.
This article was originally published on the CCC Blog.
The Biden-Harris Administration is continuing their recent efforts to advance the research, development, and deployment of responsible AI. With the rise of AI and its increasing capabilities these initiatives are meant to protect American citizens’ rights and safety. Last week the CCC blog highlighted responsible AI efforts from the White House. Yesterday the White House announced three more initiatives summarized below.
An update to the National AI Research and Development Strategic Plan. This plan builds on plans issued in 2016 and 2019, and sets out key priorities and research goals to guide federal investments in AI research and development (R&D). It will focus federal investments in R&D to promote responsible American innovation, serve the public good, protect people’s rights and safety, uphold democratic values, and ensure continued U.S. leadership in the development and use of trustworthy AI systems.
The release of a request for information to seek public input on national priorities for mitigating AI risks, protecting people’s rights and safety, and harnessing AI to improve lives. Responses to this RFI will inform the Administration’s efforts to advance a cohesive and comprehensive strategy to manage AI risks and harness AI opportunities.
The Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a new report, AI and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations, summarizing the risks and opportunities related to AI in teaching, learning, research, and assessment.
You can read more about these new initiatives in OSTP’s announcement.
On Wednesday, April 19, Speaker McCarthy unveiled the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, which would establish a set of discretionary spending caps over the next decade through FY 2033, allowing for only sub-inflation increases in overall spending. These caps would have the effect of reducing base discretionary spending by over $3.5 trillion below baseline over that time.
The last time Congress adopted a set of discretionary caps, it likely reduced federal R&D investment by more than $200 billion over the nine years they were in place. What sort of impact might this new set of caps have on federal investment?
To develop a rough estimate, we started with CBO’s February 2023 baseline for discretionary budget authority and OMB’s estimates of R&D in FY 2023. According to OMB’s figures, federal R&D accounted for 12.2% of all base discretionary budget authority, in line with historical norms. Holding this percentage steady, we calculated 10-year R&D projections under both the CBO baseline and the discretionary caps described in Section 101 of the Limit, Save, Grow Act, with small adjustments for program integrity, disaster relief, and wildfire suppression. Comparing these estimates suggest all federal R&D could decline by $28 billion or 13% in FY 2024, and $442 billion or 19% in the aggregate, in nominal dollars. (See Table 1 below or the graph above).
Given prior statements by House leadership indicating a preference for protecting defense spending, we also developed an estimate of potential reductions to nondefense R&D – which includes the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, EPA, and the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, and others – should nondefense have to bear the brunt of future spending reductions. Under this scenario, it’s assumed that defense spending grows at the CBO baseline rate, while nondefense absorbs all $3.6 trillion in discretionary cuts.
In this case, nondefense R&D would decline by an estimated $29 billion or 27% in FY 2024, and $461 billion or 39% cumulative through FY 2033 (see Table 2 below).
The House budget plan would also push down federal R&D as a share of GDP over the next decade, from its current level of 0.77% according to OMB data, to 0.51% (see graph below). This would represent the lowest point in several decades.
It’s worth noting the CBO baseline level itself is quite modest and would also result in a slight decline in federal R&D relative to U.S. GDP.
Additional material: If readers would like more details on the potential impacts of these proposed cuts, the House Appropriations Committee’s Ranking Member, Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), asked the assorted departments and agencies of the Federal Government to detail how such proposed cuts would impact their operations. You can read the responses on the Democrat portion of the House Appropriations Committee website. Given its unique role in providing the vast major of the Federal support for fundamental computing research at American universities, NSF’s response was particularly compelling; in it, Dr. Panchanathan said that cutting the agency’s budget by 22 percent (the estimate, at the time the letter was written, of the Republican cuts) would, “lead to approximately 4,600 fewer awards and approximately 66,000 people who could not be supported in their pursuit of STEM,” among many other lost opportunities in emerging technology, research areas, STEM workforce development, and regional innovation.
In our continuing series following the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) 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.
First, let’s look at NASA. Under the President’s plan, the space agency would receive a 7.1 percent increase, going from $25.4 billion in FY23 to $27.2 billion in FY24. NASA Science, which handles the research funding at the agency, would get almost as good of an increase: 5.9 percent, going from $7.80 billion in FY23 to $8.26 billion in FY24.
|FY22||FY23 Final||FY24 PBR||$ Change||% Change|
The next agency, NIST, has some nuance. The top line for the agency would see flat funding, remaining at $1.63 billion, just as it received for FY23 (in fact, it would be a very small increase of $5 million). The institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see a relatively modest increase of 4.4 percent; going from $953 million in FY23 to $995 million in FY24.
|FY22||FY23 Final||FY24 PBR||$ Change||% Change|
Finally, we come to the National Institutes of Health, which also requires some discernment. Under the President’s plan, the agency would go from $47.50 billion in FY23 to $48.60 billion in FY24, an increase of $1.1 billion or 2.3 percent. The issue arises when one looks at what is getting the majority of the agency’s suggested increase: ARPA-H, or Advanced Research Project Agency, Health. Established in the 2022 Omnibus, the advanced research program would go from $1.50 billion in FY23 to $2.50 billion for FY24, an increase of 67 percent.
|FY22||FY23 Final||FY24 PBR||$ Change||% Change|
What’s going on here? With regard to NIST, the devil is in the details. NIST has received a lot of special budgetary attention from Congress the last few years, with a large amount of Congressionally directed spending (which is another way of saying earmarks). The Administration is zeroing out that spending in their FY24 request and distributing the money to Administration and agency priorities. Given the amount of Congressional directed funding comes to almost $400 million total for the agency in last year’s budget, the vast majority coming from the construction account, that’s why the requested budget is so flat this year.
With regard to NIH, it is a matter of priorities. ARPA-H is a major priority for the Biden Administration, and they are making sure it gets special attention at NIH. Unfortunately, that means the rest of NIH is getting something between flat funding to cuts. Given the level of support that health research gets from its champions in Congress, it’s very unlikely that the Administration’s plans will be passed into law as is. But this isn’t a good place for NIH’s budget to start this process at.
As with the other research accounts we’ve profiled, it’s worth tempering any expectations, positive or negative, as it is unlikely that these budget plans will pass Congress as proposed. Given the split Congress (ie: the Republican controlled House and the Democratic controlled Senate) any final budget for FY24 will be a long time coming, if it arrives at all. In fact, with House Republicans putting out their proposed debit limit bill, which calls for cutting most discretionary budget accounts back to FY22 levels, it makes any agreed to final federal budget that much further off.
An analysis of the House Republican’s proposed debit limit bill, and how it could impact research funding, will be the subject of a future Policy Blog post.
Next steps in the FY24 budget process are for each chamber of Congress to come up with their individual funding plans. That process will begin soon and should get into full swing by next month, with the House Appropriations Committee leading the way. We’ll have updates as those bills become public; keep checking back for more information.
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.
In our continuing series following the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget request, we turn to the Department of Defense (DOD). In what is becoming a bit of a grim ritual, the Biden Administration has submitted another terrible request for the defense research accounts, as it has for the last two years.
A little background: the DOD’s Science and Technology (DOD S&T) 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. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a section under the Defense Wide account.
All three of DOD S&T’s accounts do badly under the President’s budget plan. Basic Research (6.1), which is the main Defense Department supporter of fundamental research at US universities, gets a big cut of 15 percent; going from $2.92 billion in the FY23 Omnibus to $2.48 billon under the Administration’s plan (a cut of $440 million). The details within the 6.1 accounts are not any better: the Army, Navy, and Air Force’s “University Research Initiative” subaccounts are cut at 30, 35, and 12 percent, respectively.
The Applied Research (6.2) account is hit even harder, receiving a 23 percent cut; going from $7.80 billion in FY23 to $6.01 billion under the Administration’s FY24 framework, a loss of $1.78 billion. Finally, Advanced Technology Development (6.3) would also receive a significant cut, going from $11.71 billion in FY23 to $9.33 billion in FY24, a cut of $2.38 billion, or 20 percent.
DARPA is the only bright spot among the defense accounts, escaping any proposed cuts. The agency would see a legitimately good increase of 8.1 percent, going from $4.06 billion in FY23 to $4.39 billion in FY24, an increase of $330 million.
|FY22||FY23||FY24 PBR||$ Change||% Change|
What’s going on here? The most likely reason is one we talk about almost every year: budget gamesmanship by Pentagon leadership. Namely that money is pulled from what is seen as a Congressional priority (in this case, research funding) to put toward something else that does not have the same support. If the scheme works, Congress puts money back into R&D and the moved money “sticks” elsewhere in the DOD budget. It’s not a new strategy, as the Trump Administration (and the Obama and Bush Administrations before them) did this same thing. Given that defense spending generally isn’t getting the full attention with the Biden Administration that it has in past Administrations, there’s probably more of a feeling from the Pentagon leadership that they have to do this.
The obvious problem with this is plan is, what if Congress doesn’t put the money back? Such a situation could have terrible consequences for the defense research community, not to mention to the Defense Department itself. There are members of the defense research community who have spoken out about this practice and are advocating for it to stop. But short of a Congressional directive to that end, it’s a practice that is likely to continue.
One thing is for certain: this is a bad place to start the budget process and the defense research community in Washington will need to put in another year of hard work to get these proposed cuts rejected. CRA will continue to make the case, in concert with our friends and allies in the other scientific fields and higher education institutions, for the importance of these Federal investments in defense research for our national security.
The good news is that Congress is likely to reverse these cuts, as it has for the last two years…but that assumes Congress passes a budget at all this year. As with the other research agencies we’ve highlighted, the partisan fight over the budget is shaping up to be particularly bad this year. Flat funding, a year-long continuing resolution, targeted or across the board cuts, even a lapse in government funding; all these scenarios are equally possible this year. The only caveat is that defense spending typically enjoys wide, bipartisan support, so these accounts may escape the general problems that will plague the other research agencies. Key word is “may.” Still, we’ll have to let the budget process play out more before we know what will happen; please check back for more updates.
Last week, the Biden Administration slowly released details of its delayed Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Budget Request. As we have done in years past, we’ll be writing a series of posts analyzing the assorted agency budgets that are important to the computing research community. First up is the Department of Energy, specifically, the two key parts of DOE that are of concern to the computing community: the Office of Science (SC), home to most of the agency’s basic research support, and ARPA-E, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
The President’s FY24 request for DOE SC is $8.80 billion; which is an increase of $700 million, or 8.6 percent, compared to the approved FY23 Omnibus level of $8.10 billion. The increase goes to the, “Administration’s objectives to advance bold, transformational leaps in U.S. Science and Technology (S&T), build a diverse workforce of the future, and ensure America remains the global S&T leader for generations to come.”
DOE SC plans to fund, “a balanced research portfolio of basic scientific research probing some of the most fundamental questions in areas such as: high energy, nuclear, and plasma physics; materials and chemistry; biological and environmental systems; applied mathematics; next generation high-performance computing and simulation capabilities; isotope production; and basic research to advance new accelerator and energy technologies.” The Administration is proposing for the department to provide $168 million for AI and Machine Learning, $280 million for Quantum Information Sciences (QIS), $67 million for Advanced Computing, and $110 million for microelectronics across its programs. DOE is also planning on continuing to support its RENEW initiative to expand, “targeted efforts to increase participation and retention of individuals from underrepresented groups in SC research activities;” the program would receive $107 million, a 78 percent increase over the previous year’s enacted level.
Within the Office of Science account, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program – home to most of SCs computing research programs – would fare quite well. The program would be funded at $1.12 billion, which is an increase of $50 million, or 4.7 percent, over last year. As with the last several years of budget requests for ASCR, the Exascale Computing Project line-item is reduced heavily (-81 percent) due to construction projects nearing completion; meanwhile, all other subaccounts, including the research ones, get a healthy increase, generally. The increases to ASCR’s research will:
“advance AI, QIS, advanced communication networks, and strategic computing at the exascale and beyond to accelerate progress in delivering a clean energy future, understanding and addressing climate change, broadening the impact of our investments in science, and increasing the competitive advantage of U.S. industry.”
As for ARPA-E, the agency would likewise see a healthy increase. Under the President’s plan ARPA-E would receive $650 million, an increase of $180 million over last year, or 38 percent. The request, “will support research and development (R&D) on climate adaptation and resiliency energy innovations as well as support the Administration’s Net Zero Gamechangers Initiative,” in addition to the agency’s usual support for research grants deemed “high risk” and not yet ready for private sector support.
|FY22||FY23||FY24 PBR||$ Change||% Change|
|DOE SC Total||$7.48B||$8.10B||$8.80B||+$700M||+8.6%|
What are the next steps for the budget? While these initial numbers look very good, it’s important to keep our expectations in check; because how Congress will handle the FY24 budget is very uncertain. Both Congressional Appropriations Committees are beginning their work on their individual funding bills. However, they are expected to approach those bills in very different ways, with the Democrat controlled Senate likely siding with the President’s budget plan and the Republican held House expected to propose heavy budget cuts. The expectation among the science policy community here in Washington is that there will be strong, if not acrimonious, partisan battles over the budget this year, which will lead to legislative gridlock. A government lapse in funding (ie: a government shutdown) is a very real possibility, but not a certainty, at the moment. Flat funding for the research agencies, or even cuts across the federal government, are equally possible.
There is still a lot of time between now and the end of the fiscal year (October 1st); we will have to let events play out before we know for certain what will happen. Please keep checking the CRA Policy Boog for more updates.
Today, the Biden Administration released some details of their $6.9 trillion budget request for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24). As has happened the last several years, the numbers released today are only high-level numbers for some agencies and lack finer details of directorates and programs at the assorted federal departments and agencies. More details are expected to be released in the coming days and weeks. In spite of the lack of details, it is still possible to have a high-level view of the Administration’s plans; from what we see in this request, research agencies across the federal government will do quite well under President Biden’s budget request, much as they did in last year’s request.
Many of the general themes of this budget proposal are the same as with previous budgets from the Biden Administration. The Administration continues to focus on climate change; health and pandemic readiness programs; scientific innovation in critical and emerging technologies; and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
The President’s FY24 proposal calls for $886.4 billion for defense-related programs, which is $28 billion more than current levels (or a 3.3 percent increase); and $809.1 billion for domestic spending, which is $49.2 billion more than FY23 (or a 6.5 percent increase). That non-defense programs received a larger increase than defense programs will likely not be greeted warmly by many in Congress. Defense hawks on Capitol Hill have been pushing for higher levels of defense spending in order to confront more threats like China, Russia, and other areas in the world. This difference in the two pots of money will likely be a continuing talking point throughout the budgetary process.
Implementation of the recently pass Chips and Science Act features prominently in the Administration’s request and justification. The President’s plan provides, “$25 billion, an increase of approximately $6.5 billion from the 2023 enacted level, for…authorized activities;” that amount is distributed among several agencies, with, “$11.3 billion at the National Science Foundation, $8.8 billion at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, [and] $1 billion at NIST.”
Let’s get into the details that were released:
National Science Foundation: Topline $11.3 billion, an increase of $1.40 billion, or 14 percent, over FY23 Omnibus levels. As with last year’s President’s request, NSF is the big winner among the science agencies. The Administration specifically calls out NSF as playing, “a key role in the CHIPS and Science Act with its focus on U.S. leadership in new technologies—from artificial intelligence to biotechnology and computing—all of which are critical to both America’s future economic competitiveness and U.S. national security.”
Unfortunately, numbers for Research and Related Activities (RRA) and the STEM Education Directorate (EDU) were not included in the information that was released today. Likewise, a topline number for the CISE Directorate was not released. However, many topics that fall under CISE’s mission do get mentioned. Under the heading, “Fosters Scientific and Technological Advances,” the President’s request provides, “$2 billion for research and development to maintain America’s edge in the industries of tomorrow, including advanced manufacturing, advanced wireless, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, microelectronics and semiconductors, and quantum information science.” Specifics on the $2 billion were not included.
Some details were released for the Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate, including a topline number. TIP would receive $1.2 billion under the President’s plan; that would make it one of the highest funded directorates within RRA (compared to last year’s requested numbers). It’s hard to tell just yet if this is an increase over last year’s budget, as NSF hasn’t released budget numbers for FY22 or FY23 for TIP. However, it is likely an increase as Congress approved of NSF’s plans for TIP and encouraged them to move forward. Some additional details, TIP’s Regional Innovation Engines program is specifically cited to receive $300 million; the Engines program brings, “together State and local governments, institutions of higher education, labor unions, businesses, and community-based organizations across the Nation to galvanize use-inspired research, technology translation, and workforce development.”
Department of Energy, Office of Science: Topline $8.8 billion, an increase of $700 million or 8.6 percent over FY23 Omnibus levels. Unfortunately, like with NSF, details for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, home to most of SCs computing research programs, and the Advanced Research Project Agency -Energy (ARPA-E) were not included.
The budget document identifies several areas that the department plans to focus its investments: “support cutting-edge research at the national laboratories and universities and building and operating world-class scientific user facilities; advance the Nation’s understanding of climate change; identify and accelerate novel technologies for clean energy solutions, including a historic $1 billion investment in the acceleration of efforts to achieve fusion…; provide new computing insight through quantum information science and artificial intelligence that addresses scientific challenges; expanding innovation in the microelectronics ecosystem; leverage data, analytics, and computational infrastructure to strengthen and support U.S. biodefense and pandemic preparedness strategies and plans; and position the United States to meet the demand for isotopes.”
NASA: Topline $27.2 billion, an increase of $1.8 billion or 7.1 percent over FY23 levels. The justification for the space agency’s FY24 budget is to, “supports human and robotic exploration of the Moon; invests in new technologies to improve the Nation’s space capabilities; and promotes cutting-edge Earth-observing satellites and green aviation research to help address pressing environmental challenges.” Details for the NASA Science program were not included.
Agencies toplines not included in today’s release:
• National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
• National Institutes of Health (NIH)
• Department of Defense Research – Defense Secretary Austin put out a press release; saying details will be released on Monday March 13th.
What happens now? More details should be released early next week. After that, the budget process heads to both chambers of Congress for deliberations. While these initial numbers look very good, it’s important to keep our expectations in check. This fiscal year is expected to be long and very rocky. The Republican led House of Representatives has vowed to cut budgets back to Fiscal Year 2022 levels. Their view is federal spending has gotten out of hand and needs to be pared back. It’s unclear how the Senate will operate but it will depend heavily on how many Republican Senators share their House counterparts’ views and demand budget cuts. We have heard from several sources that hard budget decisions will need to be made this year, and the research community should expect some bad budget numbers from Congress, particularly from the House. But at this time, it’s difficult to know how the budget process will play out.
But we’ll be keeping track of developments, as well as have our normal detailed dives into specific agency’s requests, so be sure to check back for more information.
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