Computing Research Policy Blog

First Look at R&D in Budget Reconciliation Legislation


The House of Representatives is making quick work of their Budget Reconciliation bills and for good reason. Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) has set September 15th as the deadline for all the House committees to complete work on their assorted draft legislation. With a very short window open to handle such a complex package of bills, the committees are moving at a breakneck pace.

To that end, we are getting our first insights into how research agencies will fare during this process. Last week the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a markup of their $45 billion portion of the overall bill. Highlights of the legislation for the agencies of most importance to the research community:

– $11 billion for NSF, of which $7.5 billion is for research and education programs and $3.4 billion is for infrastructure projects, including $1 billion for projects based at academic institutions with a $300 million carveout for HBCUs and MSIs.

– $12.8 billion for DOE Office of Science, for projects, programs, and facilities. There are several projects and programs specific for computing that are called out, with exascale and QIS getting noticeable attention.

– $1.2 billion is for NIST research and $1B for NIST infrastructure.

– $4.4 billion for NASA, of which $4 billion is for facilities repair and modernization with most of the remainder for projects related to climate change research, sustainable aviation, and wildfire preparedness.

While this wasn’t bipartisan, with the committee’s Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) mentioning multiple times that the budget reconciliation process is rushed and irresponsible, there also were no attempts by the minority party to cut down funding amounts during the amendment process. In fact, there were several bipartisan amendments accepted on voice votes (though there were many more Republican amendments voted down). This is likely to be as bipartisan as it will get though; the bill was passed on a party-line vote of 21 yeas to 17 nays.

To make clear, this is money being appropriated for Fiscal Year 2022 (ie: the next fiscal year, which starts on Oct 1st). While this is new money, in addition to the regular FY22 process, that may create some problems down the line. The concern within the policy community is that these outlays are so large that there is a likelihood that money could be withheld during regular appropriations in later years. But that is speculative right now, with specific impacts TBD.

In terms of procedure, once the committees have completed their work, they send their bills to the House Budget Committee, who will then package all the bills together for the full House of Representatives to vote on. Once the package passes the House, the Senate would take it up. The rules for a reconciliation bill mean that the time for debate is limited, and the filibuster cannot be used (ie: it’s subject to only a majority vote), so it will be voted on.

But keep in mind, this is still a very fluid and contentious process. For example, Senator Manchin (D-WV), one of the swing votes in the Senate, has called for a “strategic pause” to the whole process. Senator Manchin is concerned with passing such a large increase in spending, citing its impact on the national debt and inflation. If he follows through with his opposition, this could easily sink the entire endeavor and have a spillover effect that could scuttle the infrastructure deal. Keep in mind, Congressional Republicans are united in opposition to this and, with a Senate that is evenly divided, one switched vote can doom the entire process. This is far from a done deal.

We will be keeping track of developments and will report back when there is news, so please keep checking back.

After an Eventful August, What’s On Congress’ Agenda for September?


After a particularly eventful August, with the chaotic end of the Afghanistan War, a particularly destructive hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast, and, of course, the ongoing COVID pandemic, it’s understandable if our readers are saying to themselves “What’s happening in Washington?” With both the House and the Senate back in session this week, we thought a refresher was in order.

To summarize, there are four major items before Congress this month. Perhaps the most serious is the item the research community will have the least impact on: increasing or suspending the federal debt limit. It’s safe to say it will be taken care of but if it’s punted for several months, or just a few weeks, is anyone’s guess. Also, whether it’s done in a bipartisan fashion, or in a contentious political fight, will likely influence the other three topics that will compete for headlines.

Those other items on Congress’ September radar are ones we’ve discussed before: the Infrastructure Deal, Budget Reconciliation, and, of course, the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget. All three are at different stages but their fates are interconnected.

Infrastructure Deal

A bipartisan group of Senators agreed to a $1+ trillion infrastructure deal in early August. While it quickly passed the Senate, it has slowed down in the House. Why? Any movement with regard to infrastructure is directly tied to the budget reconciliation process (more on that next). Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) promised a group of moderate House Democrats, who were potential holdouts with budget reconciliation, that they would get a vote on the infrastructure deal by the end of September; that’s supposed to be after the House handles any reconciliation bills. From a political perspective, it seems Democratic House leadership is not convinced that they will get what they want with the reconciliation process if they act on the infrastructure deal immediately. In short, it’s being used both as a carrot and a stick.

Budget Reconciliation

Earlier this year, there had been hope that any infrastructure deal passed by Congress would be expansive in what it covered and would include science issues. However, once negotiations broke down with the White House, a smaller deal became the way to go. That smaller deal is what passed in the Senate and is on hold in the House. But that deal also opened up a “second-track” for Democratic leadership to get their agenda passed: budget reconciliation.

Put simply, the budget reconciliation process is a means for Congress to adjust an already approved budget, by either adding or subtracting. This has many advantages, including only requiring a simple majority for approval (ie: no Senate filibuster). However, it has complications, too. Not all proposals are eligible for reconciliation, so the Senate and House parliamentarians will have to make determinations about the germaneness of any particular proposal. Also, the Democratic majority is slim enough that moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) could object to spending levels and wield considerable leverage in determining what makes the final package (this is also why the infrastructure deal is on the backburner, as an incentive for moderates to play with reconciliation).

The first step of this process is for both the House and Senate to approve budget resolutions; that happened in mid-August when they approved a $3.5 trillion blue print. Both chambers are now drafting legislation in their committees, following funding levels approved in the budget resolution and along the lines of instructions from Congressional leadership. Those activities should take at least most of September, maybe even longer.

We don’t have specifics yet for the research agencies’ budgets but a memo from Democratic Senate Leadership was released at the beginning of August and it gives us an idea of what leadership is thinking to accomplish. For example, the memo instructs the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Science Committees, which has oversight of NSF, NASA, and NIST, that any increases for the committee’s budgets should be for investments in technology, transportation, research, manufacturing, economic development, and a new research and technology directorate for NSF. The House committees have received similar instructions; in fact, the House Science Committee is marking up their bill today and NSF, NIST, and DOE Office of Science are all featured prominently in their draft bill.

What’s the catch? The catch is that budget reconciliation is controversial. For example, there are already accusations of “double dipping,” ie: spending that is covered in the infrastructure deal that is also being included in the reconciliation bills. And, as mentioned before, there are procedural questions about what is germane for this process. And let’s not forget simple politics: if just one Democratic Senator doesn’t agree with this process, say Senator Manchin from West Virginia, it’s not likely to pass, given that Congressional Republicans are united against giving a win to the Democrats. Nothing has passed yet, but we can expect at least a month of political wrangling.

Fiscal Year 2022 Budget

Finally, the yearly budget process comes up; FY22 will start on October 1st, no matter what. While it’s unlikely there will be a government shutdown, it’s equally likely that the budget won’t be finalized on time. That means a Continuing Resolution. Given that Congress’ attention in September will be taken up by budget reconciliation and the infrastructure deal, and the debit limit issue in the background, the budget is likely to be kicked further into the calendar year.

The good news is once the budget gets some attention and is finalized, FY22 is looking very good for most of the research agencies. The House has moved on all of their bills and generally approved healthy increases; the defense research accounts are a notable exception. With the Senate, their Appropriations Committee acted on the first slate of bills at the end of July and beginning of August. They may do more with their remaining approps bills while the reconciliation process unfolds, but don’t expect any real movement until middle of October at the earliest, with November being more likely. All in all, don’t expect FY22 to be wrapped up until some time in December. That means a continuing resolution before the October 1st start of the fiscal year will be in order.

All things considered, Congress is handling a lot of topics in September. Whether they will be able to get through everything in a month is anyone’s guess. The fact is all these items are interrelated; what happens with one will determine what happens to the others. We will be keeping our ears to the ground and reporting on any developments, so please keep checking back.

FY22 Appropriations Update: Senate Numbers for the Energy Department’s Programs are Good and in Line with the President’s Request


Continuing our coverage of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) federal budget process, we turn to one of the first FY22 bills to come out of the Senate Appropriations Committee: the Energy and Water bill. This proposed plan contains the budgets for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE SC) and ARPA-E, as well as funding for the Exascale Computing R&D program, for which DOE is the lead federal agency. Regular readers will recall that the House’s plan, released in July, provides healthy, robust funding for these programs, but is not as good as what the President requested in May; the Senate version is mostly in line with the President’s proposal.

The legislation proposes a healthy increase of 6.6 percent for DOE SC over FY21 levels, bringing the agency’s budget to $7.50 billion for FY22, an increase of $470 million. That is slightly more than what the Administration initially requested ($7.44B). Within the Office of Science, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, which houses the majority of the computing research at DOE, would see an increase of 2 percent – going from $1.02 billion in FY21 to $1.04 billion in FY22. That is exactly what the Biden Administration requested for the program. The committee’s report spoke highly of DOE SC’s and ASCR’s work on quantum information sciences and AI & machine learning; they also encouraged the agency and program to continue their work in these areas.

As with the House’s proposed plan, when you look into the details of ASCR’s numbers, things look much better for research. The construction accounts within ASCR received a 24 percent decrease, while all other accounts within the program received an 8 percent increase; averaged out, that is where the overall 2 percent increase comes from. This cut to construction costs comes as several large super-computer systems ASCR has built in recent years are getting closer to coming online and it is in line with what the agency requested in May.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, would receive $500 million for FY22, a 17 percent increase (+$73 million) from the $427 million it received in FY21. Again, this is in line with the Administration request. Finally, just like their counterparts in the House, Senate appropriators did not fund ARPA-C, President Biden’s proposed research development program to tackle climate change. In the committee’s report, they noted establishing this new program would require more legislation than the budget process allows. Instead, the appropriators encouraged ARPA-E to focus on more climate research; again, just like the House appropriators.

FY21 FY22 Senate $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $7.03B $7.50B +$470M +6.6%
ASCR $1.02M $1.04B +$20M +2.0%
ARPA-E $427M $500M +$73M +17%

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved their bill on August 4th; next step is for the legislation to go before the full Senate chamber for passage. When that will happen is anyone’s guess; the Senate is currently in their August recess, having finished their work on the infrastructure deal, and they won’t be back until after Labor Day. It’s likely that when they return, September will be taken up by the contentious budget reconciliation process making its way through Congress; don’t be surprised if that reconciliation process takes much longer. That will likely suck the air out of the room for any other legislation to be considered, including appropriation bills. We’ll keep track of developments, so please check back for more updates.

Infrastructure Deal vs Budget Reconciliation, and how Research Fits into It All


Last week, the Senate made headlines with the passage of the $1+ trillion infrastructure deal. This was a major step towards getting a final infrastructure deal done, which has been a major priority for the Biden Administration and Congressional leadership. However, now events in Congress are shifting to the budget reconciliation process. What’s the difference? And where, and how, do the research agencies and their budgets fit into all this?

First, let’s take a step back. Regular readers will recall that in April, the Biden Administration released their infrastructure plan, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, which called for $2 trillion in investments in infrastructure, broadly conceived. Research figured quite prominently in that plan, with the President calling for significant investments in R&D ($30 billion) and scientific infrastructure upgrades ($40 billion). A new tech directorate at NSF was also included.

However, selling Senate Republicans on such an expansive infrastructure plan was always going to be a tough task for the White House, and so it was no surprise when talks broke down earlier this summer without a deal. Negotiations moved to a couple of bipartisan efforts in the Senate, and it became clear that a smaller infrastructure deal — one based on traditional infrastructure projects (such as bridges and roads – aka “hard infrastructure”) – would be the likely path forward.

But the Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate also pledged to use the budget reconciliation process as a sort of “second-track” to enact their priorities that were left out of the smaller “hard infrastructure” bill. Using the reconciliation process – a means for Congress to adjust an already approved budget to add (or subtract) current year funding – has many advantages for Democrats, including the fact that it requires only a simple majority for passage and the process is filibuster-proof. But it has complications, too. Not all proposals are eligible for reconciliation, so the Senate and House parliamentarians will have to make determinations about the germaneness of any particular proposal. Also, the Democratic majority is slim enough that moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) could object to spending levels and wield considerable leverage in determining what makes the final package.

So, the “hard infrastructure” deal, not surprisingly, doesn’t include much in the way of research funding. However, it does have a few notable provisions for the computing community:

– A five-year, $100 million a year SMART grant program at the Department of Transportation (DOT)*;
– several intelligent transportation and smart communities pilot programs are established at DOT;
– a new ARPA program (ARPA-Infrastructure) would be established at DOT;
– an entire title of the bill is dedicated to expanding broadband access; and
– several provisions with regard to cybersecurity, particularly with regard to protecting infrastructure and local governments.

We expect research will get more attention in the reconciliation process.

As that work begins, we’re getting our first insights into what the research pieces of the reconciliation bill might look like. The proposed budget resolution in the Senate, S. Con. Res. 14, gives us a framework of what to expect. That proposed legislation provides authority to the assorted authorization committees to increase budget levels for the years 2022 to 2031. For example, the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Science Committees, which has oversight of NSF, NASA, and NIST, would be allowed to increase budgets under their jurisdiction by $83 billion in that ten-year timeframe. A memo from leadership to Democratic senators explains that the increases for the committee’s budgets should be for investments in technology, transportation, research, manufacturing, economic development, and a new research and technology directorate for NSF. On the House side, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee would be able to increase budgets under its purview by $45.5 billion over those years. The Senate Energy & Natural Resource Committee, which oversees the Department of Energy programs, would receive $198 billion in addition authority to increase budgets; research infrastructure for DOE labs is listed as a priority in the aforementioned Democratic memo. While none of these call out any specific research budgets, given all the attention the federal research agencies have received this year from Congress, odds are good that they might be among the beneficiaries of these funding increases.

But this process is still far from over. The House still has to take up its own version of the “hard infrastructure” bill, as well as come to an agreement about reconciliation, and then both chambers will need to reach agreement on a final deal. The budget reconciliation process itself is quite controversial; nothing should be assumed to be accomplished just yet.

We’ll be keeping tabs on the process and will report any new developments. Please keep checking back for updates.

* – Updated post on 11/9/21 to include the SMART grant program at DOT.

FY22 Appropriations Update: The House’s Defense Research Budget is Better than the Administration’s; that Doesn’t Make It Good


In our continuing coverage of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) federal budget process, we turn to the House Appropriations Committee’s defense appropriations bill. 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. Regular readers will recall that the Administration’s requested budget from May was not good. Unfortunately, the House appropriators’ plan, while better than what the Administration proposed, isn’t an objectively good budget.

Taking a moment to look at the President’s budget request from May, all three accounts received cuts. Both 6.1 and 6.2 would be cut by 14.5 percent, and 6.3 would be cut by 11.1 percent. While DARPA would escape cuts under the President’s plan, it would do so barely with an increase of 0.8 percent.

Under the House’s plan, Basic Research (6.1), which is the main Defense Department supporter of fundamental research at US universities, would still receive a large cut of 8.7 percent compared to its FY21 levels. The account goes from $2.67 billion in FY21 to $2.44 billion for FY22, a decrease of $230 million. There is very little good news in the details: the Army and Air Force’s “University Research Initiative” subaccounts get funded at the Administration’s requested levels, which were both below FY21; and the Navy’s “University Research Initiative,” while funded at a level higher than what the Administration requested, is also below FY21 levels.

The Applied Research (6.2) account is in much the same spot; objectively terrible compared to last year’s budget but good compared to the Administration’s request. The full account would see an 8.3 percent cut compared to last year’s budget, going from $6.45 billion in FY21 to $5.92 billion under the House’s plan (a loss of $530 million). But when compared against the requested budget from May, the account would receive a bump up of 7.5 percent.

Finally, the Advanced Technology Development (6.3) account would receive a relatively good budget but still not escape a cut. It would go from $7.76 billion in FY21 to $7.64 billion in FY22, a cut of $120 million (or -1.5 percent). As before, when compared against the President’s request, the account would receive a 10.8 percent boast.

Unlike with the Biden Administration’s request, DARPA would see a decrease under the House’s plan. The agency would go from $3.50 billion in FY21 to $3.48 billion in FY22, a decrease of 0.6 percent (or -$20 million).

FY20 FY21 FY22 House $ Change % Change
DOD 6.1 $2.60B $2.67B $2.44B -$230M -8.7%
DOD 6.2 $6.07B $6.45B $5.92B -$530M -8.3%
DOD 6.3 $7.40B $7.76B $7.64B -$120M -1.5%
DARPA $3.46B $3.50B $3.48B -$20M -0.6%

So while the House has mitigated some of the impact of the President’s proposed cuts, their plan would still roll back budgets in research accounts relative to FY21. CRA and our colleagues in the research advocacy community will continue to make the case that support for these fundamental and applied research lines are critical to ensuring the Defense Department has the technology base it needs to meet the threats we face now and in the future.

What happens next? The bill was approved by the full House Appropriations Committee on July 13th. It now heads to the full House for approval. When that will happen is unclear; it was not included in the package of bills the House Appropriations Committee sent to the House floor at the end of July. This is likely because the overall budget levels for the Defense Department, which were down or flat, do not have overwhelming support. This could hold up the bill advancing until September or later. And there is still the Senate’s slate of appropriations bills to wait on; while they have started their process, details on the Senate defense appropriations bill have not been announced. We’ll keep watching as events unfold; please check back for more updates.

FY22 Appropriations Update: House Proposes Healthy Numbers for the Energy Department’s Programs but Not as Strong as the President’s Request


Continuing our coverage of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) federal budget process, we turn to the House Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water bill. This bill contains the budgets for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE SC) and ARPA-E, as well as funding for the Exascale Computing R&D program, for which DOE is the lead federal agency. The House’s plan provides healthy, robust funding for these programs, but unfortunately it is not as good as what the President requested in May. Let’s get into the details.

The bill proposes a solid increase (+4.1%) for the Office of Science over FY21 levels, bringing the agency’s budget to $7.32 billion for FY22, an increase of $290 million. Within the Office of Science, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program, which houses the majority of the computing research at DOE, would see a less generous increase of just 1 percent – going from $1.02 billion in FY21 to $1.03 billion in FY22. Both of these accounts would be funded below the President’s suggested plan.

However, there is good news when we look at the details of the House’s plan. ASCR’s research subaccounts received slight increases or were funded at the President’s suggested levels. The exception is the Exascale Computing Program which received a large 24 percent cut from its FY21 levels. However, this is a cut to construction costs, as several large super-computer systems ASCR has built in recent years are getting closer to coming online. Also, this cut is at the Administration’s request, so it was not directed by the House appropriators. So, from a research perspective, this plan is better than the overall number would suggest.

In the committee’s report, the House appropriators repeatedly spoke highly of the DOE’s research portfolio in CS and IT fields, with many specific call outs to supporting the agency’s efforts in AI and QIS. As well, the committee voiced its support for the new “Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW)” initiative, which is for targeted efforts to increase participation and retention of underrepresented groups in the Office of Science’s research activities.

Finally, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, would receive $600 million for FY22, a 41 percent increase (+$173 million) from the $427 million it received in FY21. The larger than expected increase for ARPA-E is due to the Biden Administration’s proposed ARPA-C (ie: Climate), which was not funded by the committee. In the committee’s report, it was noted that establishing another advanced research projects agency would require new legislation beyond the appropriations process. Further, the report notes that ARPA-E is already authorized to fund research like what ARPA-C is proposed to do. With that thinking, it’s not surprising that the committee would provide more funds to ARPA-E and direct it to focus more on climate research areas.

FY21 FY22 House $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $7.03B $7.32B +$290M +4.1%
ASCR $1.02M $1.03B +$10M +1.0%
ARPA-E $427M $600M +$173M +41%

The House Appropriations Committee approved their Energy & Water bill on July 16th; next step is for it to go before the full House chamber for passage. That is likely to be soon, as the committee announced that it would be moving several of its bills next week, and the E&W bill is one of them. Once the bill clears the House, we have to wait and see what happens with its Senate counterpart, as that chamber hasn’t begun public work on their slate of bills. Please check back for more updates.

FY22 Appropriations Update: House Appropriators Provide Increases for NSF, NIST, and NASA


In our continuing series following the progress of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget, we turn to the House of Representatives. The House Appropriations Committee has begun its work on their budget bills and, on Monday, the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee approved their bill, which contains the budgets for NSF, NIST, and NASA. That bill then moved before the full Appropriations Committee and was approved yesterday. In short, the amounts for NSF are good but not as good as either the President’s request or the NSF for the Future Act (NSFFF).

Under the House’s plan, NSF would receive $9.63 billion, which is a $1.14 billion increase (+13.4 percent) over the FY21 number ($8.49 billion). While that would normally be great news, keep in mind the Biden Administration’s budget plan provided $10.2 billion for NSF and NSF for the Future Act calls for the agency to receive $12.50 billion this year.

Drilling down more, the Research & Related Activities account, which hosts NSF’s research portfolio, would receive $7.70 billion in the House’s plan. Again, a significant increase (+$790 million or a 11.4 percent increase) but below the President’s ($8.14 billion) and NSFFF’s ($10.03 billion) marks. The Education & Human Resources account is similar: the House ($1.27 billion; increase of $302 million or 31 percent) is below both the President ($1.29 billion) and NSFFF ($1.58 billion).

FY20 FY21 FY22 House $ Change % Change
NSF Total $8.28B $8.49B $9.63B +$1.14B +13.4%
R&RA $6.74B $6.91B $7.70B +$790M +11.4%
EHR $940M $968M $1.27B +$302M +31%

In terms of policy items in the committee’s report, there are several highlights. First, the committee does support NSF’s effort to establish a tech directorate (this one goes with the Administration’s name of “Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships”), though the report doesn’t drill down to the level of a budget line. Regular readers will recall this is an addition to NSF that is proposed in both the Senate’s Endless Frontier Act and President Biden’s infrastructure plan (the House Science Committee’s NSFFF has something similar as well).

In other topics, AI and QIS is repeatedly mentioned throughout the report, which stipulates $724 million, “to support AI-related grants and interdisciplinary research initiatives, which is $112,430,000 above fiscal year 2021 and equal to the request,” and the committee recommends up to $205 million for QIS research, which is in line with the National Quantum Initiative Act. As well, disinformation and misinformation resiliency are prominent topics in the report and the appropriators direct NSF to fund research into these topics. There are also encouraging words about NSF’s broadening participation efforts and recommends strong funding for those programs.

With regard to the other research agencies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) budget is quite good. The top line for the agency would see a significant jump, receiving an increase of 33 percent, going from $1.03 billion in FY21 to $1.37 billion in FY22 (+$340 million). Likewise, the institutes’ Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, where the majority of the agency’s research is housed, would see a healthy increase for FY22; $938 million for this year, which is $150 million more (+19 percent) than it received for FY21. But, again, these numbers are below what President Biden recommended for FY22.

FY20 FY21 FY22 House $ Change % Change
NIST Total $1.03B $1.03B $1.37B +$340M +33%
STRS $754M $788M $938M +$150M +19%

Finally, NASA’s budget: the top line for the space agency would receive a relatively modest increase of 7.6 percent, going from $23.27 billion in FY21 to $25.04 billion in FY22 (+$1.77 billion). And NASA’s Science account would likewise receive a good boost of $670 million (or +9.2 percent); the account would go from $7.30 billion in FY21 to $7.97 billion in FY22. In a change of pace, these numbers are better than what the President suggested in his budget request.

FY20 FY21 FY22 House $ Change % Change
NASA Total $22.63B $23.27B $25.04B +$1.77B +7.6%
Science $7.14B $7.30B $7.97B +$670M +9.2%

Now that the bill has passed the full Appropriations Committee, it will head to the full House for consideration. Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) recently told House lawmakers that the chamber would take up several appropriations bills at once by the end of July; however, the CJS bill is not among that set and is likely to be delayed. It’s also unclear when the Senate will begin work on their set of bills. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, so please keep checking back for more updates.

House of Representatives Passes NSF & DOE Science Legislation by Wide, Bipartisan Margins


Last week, the full House of Representatives passed the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) and the DOE Science for the Future Act (H.R. 3593). Both bills passed by wide, bipartisan margins; the NSF bill passed on a 345-67 vote, while the DOE SC bill passed by 351-68. The bills now head into a conference process with the Senate’s United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021.

We detailed both pieces of legislation, as passed by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, last month. The versions passed by the full House are roughly the same, except for a small change in the NSF bill. The new Directorate for Science & Engineering Solutions (SES) is now receiving more money in the second year (2023) and less money in the fifth year (2026) of the bill. This appears to correct an issue where the rest of RRA, where SES is located, would have gotten a cut because the new directorate would receive the majority of the increase. Now RRA’s top-line, minus SES, would receive more money than it was before. This appears to be a technical correction made by the Science Committee staff, as there were no amendments considered on the House floor before passage.

New SES Authorization Numbers:
2022 – $1.40B
2023 – $2.30B (+64% over previous)
2024 – $2.90B (+26% over previous)
2025 – $3.25B (+12% over previous)
2026 – $3.40B (+4.6% over previous)

There are no other changes of note in the policy language in the NSF bill and the DOE Science bill is virtually the same as passed by the Science Committee.

CRA endorsed the NSF for the Future Act in early May.

The process now heads to conference with the Senate’s NSF bill. As we have mentioned before, this is likely to be an awkward process, as the Senate bill covers several topics that the House hasn’t taken up. There is a possibility either the Senate or House bills could be added to must-pass legislation, such as the annual Defense policy bill; or these bills could hang in limbo for several months, while negotiations happen among leadership, before any final actions. We are now in a wait-and-see situation.

Bottom line: this is really good news. Both chambers of Congress have passed bills authorizing large increases to NSF and DOE Science research and done so on a clear, bipartisan basis. This can only be read as a vote of confidence in both agencies and their missions.

House Science Committee Advances NSF & DOE Science Legislation; Both Bills Head to Full House for Consideration


Last week, the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee considered their NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) and the recently introduced DOE Science for the Future Act (H.R. 3593). In another departure from their counterparts in the Senate, the committee marked-up both bills in a bipartisan environment with each amendment being approved on unanimous voice-votes. Both pieces of legislation were likewise approved on a bipartisan basis, with no votes in opposition. It’s hard to argue with Chairwoman Johnson’s statement that these two bills, “represents the best of this Committee.

There are changes to NSF for the Future Act from what was passed out of the Subcommittee on Research & Technology back in May. Most significantly, the authorization levels have been modified. NSF top-line would now receive a larger increase in Fiscal Year 2022, increasing to $12.5 billion, an increase of over $4 billion (or 47 percent); in the previous version of the bill, the top budget line for NSF increased only by $3 billion (or 36 percent). However, that comes at a cost, as the last three years covered by the bill (Fiscal Years 2024, 2025, and 2026) authorize lower funding levels than the previous version, though they would still be increases. NSF would still see a doubling of its budget over five years, increasing by 111 percent or $9.45 billion over that time; but about half a billion less than the previous proposed authorization levels.

NSF Top-Line
(FY21 funding level: $8.49B)
2022 – $12.50B (+47% over FY21)
2023 – $14.62B (+17% over previous)
2024 – $15.95B (+9.1% over previous)
2025 – $17.00B (+6.6% over previous)
2026 – $17.94B (+5.5% over previous)

The Research & Related Activities (RRA) account would track closely to the NSF top-line number. And, like that number, the funding level is now higher in the initial year while slightly lower over the five years of authorizations.

RRA
(FY21 funding level: $6.91B)
2022 – $10.03B (+45% over FY21)
2023 – $11.87B (+18% over previous)
2024 – $13.05B (+9.9% over previous)
2025 – $14.00B (+7.3% over previous)
2026 – $14.80B (+5.7% over previous)

Is there good news? Education and Human Resources (EHR) and the new Directorate for Science & Engineering Solutions (SES), the Science Committee’s version of the tech directorate in the Senate’s NSF bill, would both see better authorizations. In fact, EHR gets a more robust funding level, going from $1.58 billion in FY22, a 63 percent increase over the previous year, to $1.92 billion in FY26. Over the five years of the bill EHR would increase by $952 million and nearly double its current budget (a 98 percent increase).

EHR
(FY21 funding level: $968M)
2022 – $1.58B (+63% over FY21)
2023 – $1.65B (+4.4% over previous)
2024 – $1.74B (+5.5% over previous)
2025 – $1.82B (+4.6% over previous)
2026 – $1.92B (+5.5% over previous)

The new SES directorate would also receive more funding than originally expected. It would now be established with an initial budget of $1.4 billion in FY22; it had initially been set at $1 billion. By Fiscal Year 2026, SES’s budget would grow to $5.06 billion.

SES
2022 – $1.40B
2023 – $1.50B (+7.1% over previous)
2024 – $2.90B (+93% over previous)
2025 – $3.25B (+12% over previous)
2026 – $5.06B (+56% over previous)

In terms of policy changes, there are two of note dealing with research security; this issue has become a topic of concern for Congress. There is a new provision prohibiting awardees of NSF grants from taking part in talent recruitment programs from “foreign malign countries.” This is worded specifically to apply only to China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea recruitment programs. In a sign that this language is meant to be applied narrowly, there is wording included that this is not to be applied retroactively and that it does not cover normal activities of researchers, such as conference attendance. There is also a new provision in Section 7, called “Securing American Research from Cyber Theft.” This subsection does two things: first, it requires NITRD to provide assistance to researchers and institutions of higher education to improve their cyber security for storing and maintaining federally funded research; and second, it establishes a “Computing Enclave Pilot Program” to help carry out that assistance.

The NSF for the Future Act was approved favorably by the committee on a bipartisan voice vote, a rarity in Congress these days. CRA endorsed the NSF for the Future in early May.

Introduced in late May, the DOE Science for the Future Act, unlike its NSF counterpart, did not receive consideration by a Science Committee subcommittee before this hearing. However, the legislation’s objective is the same as the NSFFF, reauthorizing the DOE Office of Science (DOE SC), updating policy language, and increasing the agency’s funding authorization levels. To that end, the bill does provide generous increases for the top-line of DOE SC:

DOE SC Top-Line
(FY21 funding level: $7.03B)
2022 – $8.80B (+25.2% over FY21)
2023 – $9.45B (+7.4% over previous)
2024 – $10.16B (+7.5% over previous)
2025 – $10.69B (+5.2% over previous)
2026 – $11.15B (+4.3% over previous)

While this bill doesn’t double DOE SC’s budget, like the NSF legislation does, it still sets the agency on a path for growth.

The Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, home to most of SC’s computing research programs, fares well in the bill. As with its parent agency, ASCR would be placed on a funding growth trajectory:

ASCR
(FY21 funding level: $1.02B)
2022 – $1.13B (+10.8% over FY21)
2023 – $1.22B (+8.0% over previous)
2024 – $1.32B (+8.2% over previous)
2025 – $1.43B (+8.3% over previous)
2026 – $1.54B (+7.7% over previous)

Additionally, there are several policy and program provisions for ASCR, dealing with such topics as next generation computing (ie: beyond exascale), heterogenous computer architecture, and energy efficient computing. As well, the bill calls for upgrading the Energy Science Network and increasing support for the Computational Science Graduate Fellowship program. Finally, there are two provisions dealing with quantum computing; one directs ASCR to establish a R&D program to accelerate innovation in quantum network infrastructure, and the other is to establish a, “‘Quantum User Expansion for Science and Technology program’ (or ‘QUEST program’) to encourage and facilitate access to…quantum computing hardware and quantum computing clouds for research purposes.”

Just like with the NSFFF legislation, the DOE bill was approved favorably by the committee on a bipartisan voice vote. Both bills now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration. Given the bipartisan and noncontroversial nature of the two bills, they are likely to win approval at that level too, though some last-minute political shenanigans are never out of the question.

Assuming they are passed by the House, it sets up an awkward conferencing process with the Senate. Since the Senate’s United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 covers several topics that the two House bills don’t cover (such as provisions dealing for foreign affairs, financial services, and the CHIPS Act), it’s unclear how either chamber will proceed with the other’s bill. Will each receive consideration? Will the legislation have to be severed and handled piecemeal? At this stage, it’s hard to tell, and will likely depend on negotiations between both chamber’s leadership.

This process is far from over, so be sure to check back for more updates.

Department of Defense FY 2022 Request: This is a Terrible Budget Request


In our continuing series following the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget request, we now turn to the Department of Defense (DOD). 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. Unlike the requested budgets of NSF and DOE, most of these accounts are cut heavily under the President’s plans for FY22.

All three of DOD S&T’s accounts are pretty grim. Basic Research (6.1), which is the main Defense Department supporter of fundamental research at US universities, is cut heavily at 14.5 percent; going from $2.67 billion in FY21 to $2.28 billon under the Biden Administration’s plan (a cut of $388 million). The details for 6.1 accounts make it look worse: the Army, Navy, and Air Force’s “University Research Initiative” subaccounts are cut at 31.1, 18.9, and 17.5 percent, respectively.

Additionally, the overall Applied Research (6.2) account is also cut at 14.5 percent; going from $6.45 billion in FY21 to $5.51 billion under the Administration’s framework, a loss of $937 million. Finally, Advanced Technology Development (6.3) would receive a large cut too, going from $7.76 billion in FY21 to $6.89 billion in FY22, a cut of $862 million (or 11.1 percent). All very bad.

DARPA would be the only account to escape cuts. The agency would see an increase, but just barely. It would go from $3.50 billion in FY21 to $3.53 billion in FY22, an increase of 0.8 percent (or $27 million). Effectively, DARPA is flat funded.

FY20 FY21 FY22 PBR $ Change % Change
DOD 6.1 $2.60B $2.67B $2.28B -$388M -14.5%
DOD 6.2 $6.07B $6.45B $5.51B -$937M -14.5%
DOD 6.3 $7.40B $7.76B $6.89B -$862M -11.1%
DARPA $3.46B $3.50B $3.53B +$27M +0.8%

What’s going on, especially in light of the Biden Administration’s general support for scientific research and for federal science agencies? There are two things happening here. The first is that there is likely some budget gamesmanship happening by Pentagon leadership. Namely that they pull money from what is seen as a Congressional priority (ie: research funding) to put toward something else that does not have the same support. If it works, Congress puts money back into R&D and the moved money “sticks” elsewhere in the DOD budget. Not a new strategy, as the Trump Administration (and the Obama and Bush Administrations) did this same thing. Given that the Defense Department in general is a big loser in Biden’s FY22 budget, it makes this view likely.

However, there is a second view that the President is under significant pressure from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to make up for cuts to domestic programs during the Sequestration Budget years of the past decade. To that end, increases elsewhere in the federal budget have to come from somewhere and the Department of Defense takes the hit.

These budgets are now in the hands of Congress, and it will be interesting to see how they are handled. One thing we do know is that CRA will continue to make the case for the importance of these Federal investments in defense research for our national security and the criticality of remaining a global leader in science and technology. We’ll keep track of their progress, so please check back for updates.

Please use the Category and Archive Filters below, to find older posts. Or you may also use the search bar.

Categories

Archives