Science

House science panel unveils $45 billion blueprint for more research

Research facilities at the national laboratories owned by the Department of Energy (DOE) are big winners in the science component of a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that Democrats hope to move through both chambers of Congress this month.

On Thursday, the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on its $45 billion slice of a massive bill that would also expand an array of federal social welfare programs, raise revenue, and cut spending in other areas. Several House committees are simultaneously moving other components of the bill in a process, known as budget reconciliation, that is expected to win few if any Republican votes.

The legislation before the science committee authorizes 5- and 10-year spending plans for agencies under its jurisdiction, which include DOE, the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The increases are aimed at boosting research across many disciplines, including efforts to combat climate change and bolster innovation. The bill is separate from a $1 trillion package of infrastructure spending approved last month by the Senate and pending in the House. The legislation is also distinct from stand-alone bills passed in June by the House that authorize future spending levels for specific programs at NSF and DOE.

Here are research highlights from the legislation being proposed by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), chair of the science committee.

DOE

The agency as a whole would be in line for an additional $15 billion over the next 5 years, of which almost $13 billion would be managed by its $7-billion-a-year Office of Science. The bill includes $10.4 billion to build and upgrade an array of user facilities and other research infrastructure at the 10 national labs that the office manages. It would also provide $2 billion for research projects, including $1.25 billion for several types of fusion research and energy efforts. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would get $1.1 billion for demonstration projects to advance wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower.

NSF

The $8.5-billion-a-year basic research agency would be authorized to spend an additional $11 billion over the next 10 years. Some $7.6 billion would be spread across its eight research and education directorates (including a technology directorate being stood up this year) to strengthen existing programs. Another $3.4 billion over the next decade would be earmarked for its account used to build large new research facilities. Of that total, $1 billion would be set aside for research on campuses across the country, including $300 million for historically Black colleges and universities and other institutions that serve large numbers of minority students.

Department of Commerce

The parent agency of both NIST and NOAA, the Department of Commerce would be authorized to spend $5 billion over the next decade on programs to promote regional innovation. They include applied research and testing new technologies that would foster economic development.

In addition, NOAA would get $4.2 billion over the next 5 years for myriad programs aimed at understanding and adapting to climate change. They include $1.2 billion for weather, ocean, and climate modeling and forecasting; $1 billion for additional aircraft to track hurricanes; and $743 million to upgrade research infrastructure projects. NIST would get $4.2 billion over the next decade. Some $1.2 billion would be devoted to funding projects in 10 areas of technology, including artificial intelligence, quantum information science, and advanced manufacturing, seen as keys to economic growth and national security.

NASA

The space agency would be authorized to spend an additional $4 billion through 2026 to repair and modernize its sprawling network of research facilities. It would also get nearly $400 million to bolster existing research programs in climate change.

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