Science

U.S. science agencies would see budgets rise under draft budget bills

Spending panels for the U.S. House of Representatives kicked off the 2023 federal budget cycle this week by recommending healthy increases for several research agencies. In some cases, however, those increases fall below the much larger boosts President Joe Biden has requested. At the same time, lawmakers bucked that trend by adding to Biden’s meager request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Congress divvies up the federal government into 12 pieces for purposes of determining annual spending levels. The House traditionally goes first, with each of a dozen appropriation subcommittees weighing in on the agencies under its jurisdiction.

Those panels began meeting last week, and the full spending committee is expected to approve all the bills by the end of the month. A parallel committee in the Senate has not yet started the identical process, however, and most observers don’t expect Congress to complete work on the 2023 budget until after the November midterm elections.

Here’s a snapshot of what the House panels have done to date.

NIH

The nation’s single largest research agency would get $47.46 billion, a $2.5 billion increase, or 5.6% over this fiscal year’s level. The Cancer Moonshot, Alzheimer’s disease, opioids, and several other research areas would receive targeted increases. NIH’s 27 institutes and centers would see an across-the-board raise of 3.2%. Biden had requested a hike of less than 1% ($300 million) for those institutes.

The bill also includes $2.75 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a new agency designed to fund high-risk, high-reward research. Congress gave it $1 billion this year, and Biden requested $5 billion in 2023. Yesterday, the full House approved legislation that would make ARPA-H a stand-alone entity within NIH’s parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF would receive roughly half of the 19% increase Biden requested under a bill taken up yesterday, boosting its overall budget by $783 million, to $9.63 billion. Its $1 billion education program would grow more rapidly—by 23%—than its $7 billion research account, which would receive an 8% boost.

The overall rise of 9% is nearly identical to the 9.7% increase allocated to the appropriations subcommittee that oversees NSF, which also funds the Justice and Commerce departments. “The top priority in this bill is public safety,” noted the panel’s chairman, Representative Matt Cartwright (D–PA), referencing the most recent mass shootings and rising crime rates in many cities. But funding basic research to foster economic growth is also important, Cartwright said in explaining the healthy boost for NSF.

Representative Robert Aderholt (AL), the panel’s top Republican, said he shares Cartwright’s belief in the importance of research. But he and his Republican colleagues are unlikely to back the bill when it comes up for a vote by the full committee, with Aderholt calling the overall total “unrealistic and downright irresponsible.”

Department of Energy (DOE)

House budgetmakers expressed priorities that diverge somewhat from those of the Biden administration. They would boost spending in DOE’s basic research arm, the Office of Science, by 7% from the current level to $8 billion, $201 million more than the Biden administration had requested.

The department’s applied Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program would rise to $4 billion, a 25% increase from the current budget—but far short of the $6.02 billion the administration had requested.

Similarly, appropriators would provide $550 million for DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which seeks to quickly translate the most promising ideas from basic research into prototechnologies. That’s 22% more than ARPA-E’s current budget, but well shy of the $700 million the administration had requested.

NASA Science

The space agency’s core science programs would get $7.9 billion, roughly $291 million above its current budget but below Biden’s request for a 5% boost, to $8 billion.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA, which supports weather, climate, ocean, and fisheries research programs, would get $6.8 billion overall, a $909 million boost over this year, but below the White House request for a 17% increase, to $6.9 billion.  

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Core laboratories at NIST would get a 12% increase, to $953 million, under the House panel’s recommendation, a slight reduction from the 15% Biden has requested. The panel also trimmed the large increase Biden is seeking for its programs to fund advanced technologies to revive U.S. manufacturing.

U.S. Geological Survey

The agency receives $1.6 billion, roughly $250 million above this year’s budget, but below the request for a 23% increase to $1.7 billion.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA’s core science programs would receive $872 million, about $140 million more than this year, and above the White House’s request for an 18% increase, to $863 million.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

The military’s cutting-edge research arch would receive $4 billion, a $200 million increase, but below the administration’s $4.1 billion request.

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