Computing Research Policy Blog

President Biden Releases High Level Budget Overview for Fiscal Year 2025; NSF Receives 12% Increase but with an Asterisk

Last week, the Biden Administration released a high-level overview of their $7.3 trillion budget request for Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25). As has happened the last several years, the documents released contain only a few specific budgetary numbers and details. The document serves more as a summary of the President’s priorities for the assorted Executive branch departments and agencies. More detailed requests from some, but not all, agencies have been released, with more expected this week or next. As CRA has done in years past, as we dig into the details of agencies’ budget request, we will post our analysis to the Policy Blog.

One general note: the Biden Administration makes clear on the first page that this document was prepared before any FY24 funding legislation was passed into law. Therefore, the few comparisons that are made in the document were against previous fiscal years, mostly against FY23. Since we now have some (but not all) of the Fiscal Year 2024 accounts settled, CRA will be able to make a FY24 to FY25 comparison for certain accounts.

Many of the general themes of this budget proposal are the same as with previous budgets from the Biden Administration. Regular readers of the Policy Blog will recall the R&D priorities memo that OSTP released over the summer. The Administration continues to focus on advancing trustworthy artificial intelligence; climate change; scientific innovation in critical and emerging technologies; and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. According to the Administration, their request will invest, “$20 billion across major research agencies, an increase of $1.2 billion above the 2023 level, to boost American innovation and re-establish American leadership in research and scientific discovery.”

At a very high level, the President’s FY25 proposal calls for $900 billion for defense-related programs, which is $16 billion more than current levels (or a 1.8 percent increase), and $1029 billion (or $1.02 trillion) for domestic spending, which is $28 billion more than FY24 (or a 2.8 percent increase). These numbers are taken from Table S-4 on page 141 of the Administration’s request. Keep in mind that roughly 60 percent of the FY24 budget (ie: last year’s budget) has not been approved by Congress yet, so a real year-to-year comparison is not possible yet.

Knowing the different defense versus non-defense spending pots is important because of the May budget agreement that President Biden and then House Speaker McCarthy agreed to, and passed into law. It sets specific funding targets for these types of spending. According to the deal, both spending categories are only supposed to increase by 1 percent each for FY25. At this time, it’s unclear if President Biden has kept to the agreement or not. However, at least for the Defense Department, they are asserting that this request does conform to the law and is a near zero-growth budget.

Let’s get into the details:

National Science Foundation: Topline $10.2 billion, an increase of $1.14 billion, or 12.6 percent, over FY24 levels. While that is a good number, and an increase over the steep cut that Congress just approved for NSF, it is also roughly a billion dollars less than what the Administration requested for the agency a year ago. This is very much a reflection of the difficult budget environment we are in and how constrained the Administration is with the previously mentioned May budget agreement.

The President’s plans call for NSF to play a key role in, “strengthening U.S. leadership in artificial intelligence (AI) and other critical emerging technologies; boosting research and development, including for combating the climate crisis; supporting the Nation’s research infrastructure; advancing equity while promoting education and workforce development in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and increasing research security and oversight.”

Numbers for Research and Related Activities (RRA) and the STEM Education Directorate (EDU) were not included in the initial release. Likewise, the topline number for the CISE Directorate was not provided. However, many topics that fall under CISE’s mission do get mentioned. As an example, artificial intelligence continues to be an issue of major importance to the Biden Administration, with multiple references to agencies and departments cited for implementing the October Executive Order on AI.

A topline number was released for the Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate. TIP would receive $900 million under the President’s plan. It’s not yet possible to tell if that is an increase or not for TIP, over last year’s levels. We will have to wait for NSF to release their spending plans for FY24 before we know. It would constitute an increase of $20 million over the Directorate’s FY23 budget. The Administration cites a larger increase in their document, which is due to the difference of baseline vs total from how FY23 was approved by Congress (CRA, where possible, is comparing total funding, FY24 versus FY25).


Department of Energy, Office of Science: Topline $8.6 billion, an increase of $360 million or 4.4 percent over FY24 levels. 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. And similar to NSF’s request, this year’s proposed topline budget is about $200 million less than the Administration requested for DOE SC last year.

The budget document identifies several areas that the department plans to focus its investments: “cutting-edge research at the national laboratories and universities as well as building and operating world-class scientific user facilities; identifying and accelerating novel technologies for clean energy solutions; improving predictability of climate trends and extremes using high performance computing; providing new computing insight through quantum information; and positioning the United States to meet the demand for isotopes.”


NASA: Topline $25.4 billion, an increase of $500 million or 2.0 percent over FY24 levels. The justification for the space agency’s FY25 budget is for, “exploring the Moon with U.S. and international partner astronauts; understanding the Earth system; conducting a broad space science program consisting of multiple exciting missions; and transitioning from a Government-led to commercially-led space stations.” Details for the NASA Science budget were not included.

As with the previously mentioned agencies, this request is below what the Biden Administration asked for a year ago. In their FY24 request the President called for a $27.2 billion topline for NASA, almost $2 billion more than they are for FY25.


Agencies toplines not Included in initial release:

  • National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)

What happens now? More details for several agencies have been released, with others expected this week. After that, the budget process heads to both chambers of Congress for deliberations. While these initial numbers look relatively good, it’s important to keep our expectations in check. The majority of FY23 still needs to be settled by Congress, who have a Friday March 22nd deadline.

Additionally, this FY25 is expected to be very long and rocky; possibly even more so than FY23 (if that’s possible). The Republican led House of Representatives has not changed; in fact, their majority has shrunk, which will make passing any legislation even harder. With this being a Presidential election year, the assumption here in Washington is that FY25 will be punted until after that election. It is even likely final consideration of the budget will be pushed into the 2025 calendar year. Again, we should expect a very long budget process.

CRA will continue tracking developments at every stage of the process. We will also have our normal detailed dives into specific agency’s requests, so be sure to check back for more information.

CRA Statement Expressing Serious Concerns About Fiscal Year 2024 Funding Levels at the National Science Foundation and Other Key Federal Research Agencies

Last week, Congress passed, and President Biden signed into law, the Fiscal Year 2024 budgets for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards & Technology, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and NASA. Many of these budgets received funding cuts, some significant, compared to FY23 levels. CRA released the following statement expressing serious concerns about these funding levels:

CRA Statement Expressing Serious Concerns About Fiscal Year 2024 Funding Levels at the National Science Foundation and Other Key Federal Research Agencies

The Computing Research Association (CRA), representing more than 250 computing research organizations in academia and industry, has serious concerns about the significant cuts to Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) funding levels that have been approved for key Federal research agencies, particularly the National Science Foundation (NSF). These cuts will have a significant impact on American leadership in key technologies. As the National Science Board’s recently released Science & Engineering Indicators note, the United States has lost significant ground in critical fields related to computing research, such as in artificial intelligence, where the People’s Republic of China has surpassed the US in research publications and patents and is educating more doctoral students in S&E fields.

This situation is only exacerbated by the FY24 appropriations process, where Congress approved an 8.5 percent cut to NSF, a reduction of $840 million in funding compared to FY23. Also cut were the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – reduced 10.4 percent or $170 million vs. FY23 – and the Department of Energy’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program (4.7 percent cut, or $50 million). All three agencies are critical to maintaining U.S. leadership in cutting edge computing research, especially in areas of significant national interest like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, high-performance computing, and cyber security. Innovations in these areas are crucial to our national security and economic future.

These cuts will reduce the quantity of research, the number of researchers, and the number of students educated in key fundamental areas of computing and other fields of discovery at a time when global challenges demand that we increase all these measures. These cuts are occurring at the same time that the People’s Republic of China is increasing its investment in fundamental research.

We stand with the National Science Board in sounding the alarm as the country’s lead in several S&E metrics continues to degrade. For the United States to maintain its leadership in these and other S&E fields, we must follow through on the bipartisan promise of the CHIPS and Science Act, which recognized the need for broad investments in fundamental research to fuel innovation and discovery, and find supplemental support for these agencies. Failing to do so risks ceding valuable ground to our adversaries in these critical technologies, as well as the innovations that will lead to technologies not yet imagined.

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: Congress Races to Avoid Government Shutdown with New Batch of CRs; Glimmer of Hope Budget Finish Line is Near

Congress is once again rushing to avoid a potential lapse in budgetary funding authority, which would lead to a partial shut of the Federal Government this weekend. Readers will recall that in January Congress continued using a “laddered,” or “two-step,” process of having two deadlines for parts of the Federal budget. About 20 percent of the government’s funding authority was set to lapse tomorrow, March 1st, while the other 80 percent was set to lapse a week later on March 8th. With the first deadline approaching, Congress still doesn’t have an agreement finalizing the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. But there is a glimmer of hope.

Congressional leaders have agreed to extend the deadline for the first tranche of budget bills by a week, to March 8th. In addition to the original group of Federal departments (Energy, Veterans, Transportation, HUD, and Agriculture, as well as military construction programs), this will include the budgets for the Justice, Commerce, and Interior Departments, which were in the second group of accounts. The working theory is these are the budgets that are least controversial and most likely to pass through Congress. The other budgets, that are in the original March 8th grouping, would have their budget authority extended by a second continuing resolution until March 22nd.

Should these new continuing resolutions (CRs) be passed, and if it leads to FY24 budgets being finalized, it will be welcome news to researchers. NSF, NIST, and NASA are included in the budget bills that contain the Justice and Commerce Departments. Having those budgets done would finally give budget certainty to those research agencies for FY24. In addition, the Department of Energy has been included in this group since November; that would mean the majority of research agencies’ budgets could be completed in a week.

There are a lot of “ifs” in the calculus, however. The rest of the budget would still need to be completed, and that includes the Department of Defense and its research accounts. As well, this new batch of CRs are that: continuing resolutions, not passed into law budgets. And all the politics and dysfunction in Congress are hanging over the process. So, a glimmer of hope that this budgetary year could be finished before the end of the month, but it is only a glimmer at the moment. Please keep checking back for more updates and the latest news.

Research Agencies Tell Congress of the Challenges with Implementing Research Security Policies

On February 15th, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing, titled “Examining Federal Science Agency Actions to Secure the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise”, to look at how federal science agencies are implementing, “recent guidance and laws to protect proprietary technology and scientific discoveries.” The committee heard from witnesses from the Biden White House and multiple federal research agencies about the status of implementing those policies across the federal government and what challenges there are to preserve the country’s open scientific environment.

The Chairman of the Science Committee, Frank Lucas (R-OK), in his opening statement wasted no time getting to the crux of the hearing: “Research theft is one of the single greatest threats to our competitiveness as a nation.” He went further, pointing out that “our hard-won innovations…(are) put to work for our adversaries” and specifically called out China for their actions to illicitly extract the findings of federally supported research. Chairman Lucas, after providing an overview of the bipartisan actions the committee has taken over the last several years to improve the government’s approach to research security, pointed out that there is still no, “timely, clear, and uniform guidance on this issue for our agencies and for our researchers.” The chairman was also clear to say that the committee is, “not here to target researchers based on their race but based on the actions they have taken, and that their objective is, “to ensure that all federally funded scientists follow the U.S. principles of scientific fairness and integrity.”

The chairman also entered into the record a letter to the Director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy Director (OSTP), Arati Prabhakar, one of witnesses, from the Association of American Universities. In that letter, the President of AAU pointed out the concerns that universities have with no clear guidance from the federal government on implementation of research security programs, and further emphasized that those eventual requirements need to be harmonized across the federal government to not adversely impact research institutions.

In her opening statement, Science Committee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) did not stray far from Chairman Lucas’ comments, saying, “as the landscape continues to evolve, what’s most important is that we continue to approach this challenge thoughtfully and clear-eyed about the tradeoffs we are willing and not willing to make.” After highlighting several statistics on the contribution foreign born researchers make to the country’s scientific efforts, Representative Lofgren said that we need to, “choose to preserve the global vision of the United States being the best country in the world to be a researcher.” In closing, Lofgren pointed out that, “the rhetoric around research security itself has been enough to send a chill across our colleges, universities, and start-ups.” She specifically noted the impact on the country’s Asian American communities and said, “we must make every effort possible to avoid profiling based on race, ethnicity, or nationality.”

The witnesses for the hearing represented perspectives from the White House and a number of key federal research agencies. The first witness was Presidential Science Advisor and Director of OSTP, Arati Prabhakar, who represented the perspective of the Biden Administration and the lead office in charge of harmonizing research security policies across the Federal Government. In her remarks, Dr. Prabhakar highlighted several steps OSTP has taken with regard to research security, such as releasing a memo on the purpose and use of common forms for researchers and guidelines covering foreign talent recruitment programs (both will be the subject of a future Policy Blog article). Joining Dr. Prabhakar were Dr. Rebecca Keiser, Chief of Research Security Strategy and Policy at the National Science Foundation; Dr. Geri Richmond, Under Secretary for Science and Innovation at the Department of Energy; and Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health. Collectively they provide perspectives of how their research agencies are implementing their own research security programs and the response from their communities.

During the question period, it was clear that the committee members wanted to hear how the federal research agencies were guarding against the theft of taxpayer funded research, particularly from the Chinese government. However, the witnesses tried to articulate that there remain considerable challenges to implementing these policies. In response to a question from Chairman Lucas, Dr. Pradhakar said that initial comments that OSTP received from the community gave them “considerable pause” in moving forward, with concerns about the administrative burden on universities and researchers being specifically mentioned, as well as not wanting to turn these requirements into a “checklist.” All the witnesses conveyed that they were impressing on their individual research communities that these requirements are a serious matter and should not be dismissed out of hand. But they also conveyed, to the members of the committee, the trepidation that their communities felt about these policies and programs.

There was a particularly telling anecdote that Dr. Richmond voiced about a researcher who is originally from China but had established his career and life in the United States and planned to remain here. According to Dr. Richmond, he was terrified of being punished for a simple mistake and being sent back to China. In an exchange with Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY), quoted by Science Magazine in their own coverage of the hearing, Dr. Richmond told the researcher to take these policies seriously and:

“the next time you submit a [grant] proposal, you need to be honest and transparent with your university about your current and pending research support…because we don’t know whether to trust you or not.”

This hearing underlines the fact that research security is a matter of great importance to lawmakers in Washington, and it will continue to be a matter of great importance for the foreseeable future as research agencies continue to rollout their policies. American researchers, should they wish to continue to receive taxpayer funded research grants, need to take this matter seriously too and follow closely any new policies that the research agencies release. At the same time, the community needs to be sure that the government’s concerns about research security don’t turn into government overreach. It was clear at the hearing that both the research agencies, and the leaders of the House Science Committee, are grappling with that concern while attempting to secure the nation’s research enterprise. CRA will continue to monitor this matter, representing the concerns and positions of the community with policymakers, and will report out any new developments.

House Leadership Launches Bipartisan Task Force on Artificial Intelligence

Today, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries announced the establishment of a bipartisan Task Force on Artificial Intelligence. The task force will be co-chairs by Jay Obernolte (R-CA) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) and will have 24 members drawn equally from both sides of the aisle. The group will explore how to, “ensure America continues to lead the world in AI innovation while considering guardrails that may be appropriate to safeguard the nation against current and emerging threats,” and, “will seek to produce a comprehensive report that will include guiding principles, forward-looking recommendations and bipartisan policy proposals.”

This is a welcome development. While the Senate has a long-established effort looking at AI, the House has been less organized, with seemingly every committee looking at the subject in their jurisdiction. This unified effort will allow the House to approach the legislative topic of AI in a more comprehensive way and will help Representatives become better acquainted with the subject. In a positive sign, several members of the Task Force, including Co-Chair Obernolte, are members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which has been examining the development of AI within the nation’s research ecosystem for several years now (and just had a hearing on the subject). This should mean that the research community will be well listened to as the group develops their report and recommendations. CRA looks forward to working with the Task Force and will emphasis the importance of research in any national strategy around AI.

House Science Committee Examines How Federal Science Agencies Can Harness Artificial Intelligence to Drive Scientific Discoveries

On February 6th the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing, titled Federal Science Agencies and the Promise of AI in Driving Scientific Discoveries, to look at, “how federal science agencies can further harness artificial intelligence (AI) to drive discoveries in new scientific domains and pursue leading-edge AI research.” The committee heard from several witnesses from government, academia, and industry about the state of access to AI research resources for researchers in the US and how industry can partner in this effort. It was a chance for the committee to look at the newly launched National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) pilot program at NSF, as well as what the Department of Energy’s National Labs are doing with regard to AI.

This hearing was jointly held by the House Science Committee’s subcommittees on Research & Technology and Energy. The Research & Technology Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Collins (R-GA), called the hearing to order and pointed out the widening, “gap between Big Tech, academic AI researchers, and entrepreneurs.” He further made the point that, “facilitating public-private partnerships can help narrow this gap and efficiently maximize the development and use of responsible AI systems.” Energy Subcommittee Chairman Brandon Williams (R-NY) spoke about the untapped potential of AI and the important role that federal government and the research agencies play in helping to develop the field. Chairman Williams said, “these AI-enabled discovery could be transformational to Energy, Medicine, and Materials. Similarly, the federal government has tools, like high performance computing resources, that are unique and powerful for creating AI generated algorithms from this remarkable data.” Finally, the full Science Committee Chairman, Frank Lucas (R-OK), spoke about the, “three critical components in the formula for successful AI innovation: access to a skilled workforce, access to computing power, and access to data,” and how the federal science agencies play an important role in all three areas.

Following the opening statements from the majority party, the Ranking Members of the minority side delivered their remarks. Research & Technology Ranking Member Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) focused on the workforce development side of the question, saying the country needs, “a skilled workforce that can apply AI technologies responsibly to our national and community needs,” which will require, “hands-on learning opportunities to all types of students and workers across sectors, including those who want to upskill and apply new uses of AI in their current jobs.” Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Jamaal Bowman’s (D-NY) opening statement also focused on workforce needs, saying the country needs, “a skilled and diverse workforce to maintain the vitality of DOE’s scientific computing ecosystem long into the future.” Rep. Bowman also made the point about the needs to develop AI capabilities, “responsibly and ethically,” making the further point that, “(as AI) becomes more commonplace…we must ensure that its fundamental algorithms are designed to protect people’s privacy and eradicate bias.” Finally, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ranking Member of the full committee, used her opening remarks to point out the need of the Federal investment in this space. She said to, “achieve the promise of AI for societal benefit – and develop effective guardrails against harm – talented and passionate researchers, startups, and students from across the nation will need access to the kind of computational and data resources that are currently available to only a few.”

The witnesses represented views from government, industry, and the academic research communities, and demonstrated what their respective areas brought to the table. Tess DeBlanc Knowles, Special Assistant to the Director for Artificial Intelligence at NSF, spoke about what the Foundation is doing to provide resources for the AI researcher community and focused heavily on the NSF’s pilot of the NAIRR program. Dr. Georgia Tourassi, Associate Laboratory Director for Computing and Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, spoke about what DOE is doing and the hardware resources it is providing in the AI research space. Dr. Chaouki Abdallah, Executive Vice President for Research at Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dr. Louay Chamra, Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Oakland University, provided a research institution perspective but from different sides of the issue; Dr. Abdallah from a R1 school, while Dr. Chamra is from a smaller research institution. Finally, Jack Clark, co-founder and Head of Policy at Anthropic, provided a viewpoint from industry and why they are interested in the Federal Government’s investment in AI infrastructure.

The hearing was well attended by committee members with engaging questions for the witnesses. Generally speaking, the Republican members of the committee focused on understanding why the Federal Government’s investment is needed, particularly by industry. They also were concerned about the security of the nation’s AI resources and that they do not become compromised by bad actors, such as hackers or foreign agents. On the Democrat side of the committee, many of the questions focused on ensuring the democratization of the nation’s AI resources, wanting to ensure that a select few companies will not be the only ones who benefit. However, on both side of the aisle, the committee’s membership expressed support for NSF’s NAIRR program, viewing it as a vital tool to ensure the nation’s competitive position with AI globally.

This was the first hearing in 2024 on the topic of AI by the House Science Committee; it is likely not the last. Artificial intelligence is still a hot topic within Congress, with many efforts underway in both chambers. CRA will continue to monitor this subject for developments and will report them out to the research community; please be sure to check back for the latest updates.

NSF Launches Four New Research Security Training Modules

At the end of last month, the National Science Foundation launched four new interactive online research security training modules. Stipulated in the Chips and Science Act of 2022, the purpose of these training modules is to, “facilitate principled international collaboration in an open, transparent and secure environment that safeguards the nation’s research ecosystem.” The training modules are now available for researchers and institutions across the country and will help the research community understand and get a better handle on this issue.

The four modules cover a range of topics:

  • Module 1, “Introduction to Research Security,” covers key concepts and how to recognize situation that may indicate undue foreign influence.
  • Module 2, “The Importance of Disclosure,” explains federal funding agency disclosure requirements, including the type of information that must be disclosed, how that information is used, and why disclosing that information is important.
  • Module 3, “Manage and Mitigate Risk,” identifies types of international collaborative research and professional activities, associated potential risks, and strategies and best practices for managing and mitigating such risk.
  • Module 4, “The Importance of International Collaboration,” covers the role of principled international collaboration and provides strategies on how to balance international collaboration with research security concerns, while fostering an open, welcoming research environment.

Research security – the safeguarding of the US’s research enterprise against the misappropriation of research, related violations of research integrity, and foreign government interference – has been a topic of concern to lawmakers in Washington for the past several years. Long time readers of the Policy Blog will recall National Security Presidential Memorandum – 33 (NSPM-33), which was released in the final days of the Trump Administration, and the subsequent guidance from OSTP on implementation of that memorandum. The topic also featured prominently in the House China Committee’s recent report on resetting the US-China relationship. To put it simply, research security is an important matter, and the research community needs to take this seriously, be aware of its new duties, and integrate the practices into its professional processes.

This is likely not the last step that NSF, or other federal research agencies, will take on this topic. CRA will continue to monitor for new developments and announcements from throughout the Federal government and will report them to the community. We will also continue to make sure the needs of the researcher community for a fair, open, and transparent research system are balanced against any research security action by the Federal government.

NSF Launches Pilot of NAIRR Program to “Democratize the Future of AI”

The National Science Foundation, in collaboration with several other federal agencies, announced the launch of the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR) pilot program yesterday. The program, which partners with 10 federal agencies and 25 private sector, nonprofit, and philanthropic organizations, will, “provide access to advanced computing, datasets, models, software, training and user support to U.S.-based researchers and educators.” The aim of the NAIRR program is to connect, “researchers and educators with the resources needed to support their work,” in order to, “power innovative AI research.”

The NAIRR program has a long, bipartisan history of support across the government. Originating in the National AI Initiative Act of 2020, which established a task force co-chaired by OSTP and NSF, to create a roadmap for establishing, “a shared research infrastructure that would provide AI researchers and students with significantly expanded access to computational resources, high-quality data, educational tools, and user support.” The task force’s final report, released a year ago, recommended the establishing of the NAIRR program and has enjoyed support in both chambers of Congress. Launching a pilot of NAIRR is also a major research goal laid out in President Biden’s recent executive order on artificial intelligence.

The House version of the National AI Initiative Act of 2020, the majority of which made up the final legislative language, was heavily influenced and informed by the Computing Community Consortium’s (CCC) work and their AI roadmap report. CRA endorsed that legislation when it was introduced. The long effort to stand up NAIRR is a major win for the computing research community. CRA will continue to follow events and actions, particularly in Congress, where there are efforts to formally establish NAIRR and provide consistent funding for the program.

House Committee Releases Report to “Reset” Relationship with China; Recommendations on Research Funding, Research Security, and High Skilled Immigration Featured Prominently

Last month, the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, commonly referred to as the China Committee, released a bipartisan report aimed at resetting the, “economic and technological competition,” between the two countries. The report, titled “Reset, Prevent, Build: A Strategy to Win America’s Economic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party,” makes nearly 150 recommendations in a wide range of areas, including research funding, research security, and high skilled immigration.

The recommendations are organized into three pillars:

  • Pillar I: Reset the Terms of Our Economic Relationship with the PRC (People’s Republic of China)
  • Pillar II: Stem the Flow of U.S. Capital and Technology Fueling the PRC’s Military Modernization and Human Rights Abuses
  • Pillar III: Invest in Technological Leadership and Build Collective Economic Resilience in Concert with Allies

The third pillar is likely of most interest to the US research community; it is covered in pages 34 to 39 of the report. In fact, the first recommendation in that section is:

Fund the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science…with a focus on peer-reviewed research.

Also contained in that set of the report’s recommendations are calls to ensure that the country remains the world leader in such fields as artificial intelligence, quantum sciences, and biotechnology, as well as several smaller issues for specific technologies (like small modular reactors and electric vehicles). As a specific example, another recommendation is to, “ensure the (US) is the first country to develop a quantum computer capable of breaking modern-day encryption tools and be a global leader in quantum research and technologies,” and would task the Departments of Defense and Energy, “to consider all the methods and means necessary to ensure the (US) wins the quantum race.”

The report also gets into the topic of research security (pages 33 and 34) and makes several recommendations to, “strengthen US research security and defend against malign talent recruitment.” The first recommendation in this section is to build on National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 (NSPM-33) by, “requiring all federal research funding applicants to disclose details about past, present, and pending relations and interest with foreign governments, foreign government controlled entities, or entities located in foreign adversary countries, in the past five years for themselves and any key member of their team.” Regular readers of the Policy Blog will recall that NSPM-33 is a presidential order released in the last days of the Trump Administration and directed federal research agencies to develop processes to assess and clear up potential conflict of interests/commitments of researchers who receive federal funds. That memorandum, and the guidance that federal agencies have released to implement it, have made clear that it is not meant to criminalize past, legal conduct by researchers. This recommendation by the China Committee to expand the requirements to cover the previous five years of a researcher’s work is concerning; however, if implemented, it could also handle a timeframe already covered by research agency rules and regulations.

The report makes further recommendations in this space, such as requiring US research institutions to, “obtain an export control license if they intend to use any export-controlled item that has a clear and distinct national security nexus,” when collaborating with any foreign adversary entity; and strengthen and enforce current rules for US universities to disclose and track gifts from foreign donors. Much of this has been covered in recent legislation, such as the Chips and Science Act.

The report also makes several recommendations in the area of high skilled immigration (pages 39 to 41), much with a focus of working with key allies for talent recruitment. For example, the report recommends establishing, “a work authorization program for foreign nationals,” from countries in key alliances (such as NATO and the Five Eyes (FVEY)), who have a background in, “critical and emerging technology.” In a different area, the report also recommends expanding visa security screening procedures to prevent foreign adversaries from exploiting the country’s open research system to, “illicitly acquire U.S. technology and technical knowledge.” And it is further recommended that, “the Office of the Director of National Intelligence should be required to participate in visa screening of high-risk researchers.”

While the China Committee does not have the power to introduce legislation, this report likely acts as a barometer of the temperature in Congress with how the United States should interact with China. We have been expecting the committee to get into the areas of research, research security, and related matters, and this report could be a sign that they plan to shift into these areas in the near future. It is also worth keeping in mind that this report will influence, to some extent, how federal agencies, particularly the research agencies, handle interactions with the Chinese state going forward. CRA will continue to monitor this ever-evolving situation, and the actions of this House Select Committee, to represent the computing research community in any policy discussions that could impact the computing research community.

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