The US Senate’s spending panel today unveiled its proposed 2023 budgets for every federal agency. Science agencies do well, thanks to an overall allocation of $1.7 trillion that allowed the panel to provide a 10% increase to all domestic agencies and a 9% boost to military programs.
The numbers represent the latest turn in an annual budget cycle that is unlikely to be completed until after the midterm congressional election in November. Last week, the appropriations committee for the House of Representatives completed work on half of its 12 spending bills. Ultimately, the two bodies will have to agree on the final numbers.
Here are highlights from the Senate spending package for several research agencies.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The Senate bill would give NIH a raise of $2 billion, or 4.4% more, to $48 billion. The figure includes flat funding of $1 billion for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), created to fund high-risk, high-reward research. NIH’s 27 other institutes and centers would receive what the panel describes as “at least 3.1%” for most entities.
President Joe Biden has only requested a tiny hike of $274 million for NIH’s core activities, plus $5 billion for ARPA-H. The House panel has proposed a total investment of $50.2 billion, with $2.75 billion allocated to ARPA-H. A draft House bill would make it a standalone entity within the Department of Health and Human Services, NIH’s parent agency.
Within the Senate bill, legislators earmark increases for several fields, including opioids research, health disparities research, the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, and the health impacts of weather.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
The Senate panel has proposed a $1.5 billion boost for NSF, to $10.34 billion. That’s just $154 million shy of the administration’s requested 19% increase, and $707 million more than approved by House appropriators.
Within that total, the Senators have embraced the agency’s bid to launch a $200 million network of regional innovation centers. And they go further than the administration’s expression of support for geographic diversity in funding by specifying that at least 20% of the estimated 10 centers will be led by institutions from the 28 jurisdictions eligible to participate in the agency’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, NSF’s attempt to level the playing field for poorer, mostly rural states.
Department of Energy (DOE)
Senate budgetmakers showed their enthusiasm for basic research within DOE’s Office of Science. They propose raising its budget by 8.4%—nearly twice the 4.3% increase requested by the White House—to $8 billion. Among the office’s six research programs, the big winners would be biological and environmental research, which would see its budget climb 12.1% to $914 million; nuclear physics, whose budget would rise 10.6% to $805 million, and basic energy sciences, which funds research in condensed matter physics, materials science, and chemistry and runs DOE’s x-ray synchrotrons and neutron sources. It would receive an increase of 10.1%, to $2.54 billion.
Single-digit boosts would go to high energy physics, which would receive an 8.3% increase to $1.168 billion; fusion energy sciences, whose budget would inch up 4.2% to $743 million; and advanced scientific computing research, which would see its budget grow 4.1% to $1.08 billion.
Senate appropriators showed less passion than the White House for DOE’s applied research programs. They call for increasing the budget of its Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program to $3.8 billion, an 18.7% jump from the current budget, but nothing like the 88% boost to $6.02 billion the administration had requested. They would increase spending for DOE’s Advanced Projects Research Agency-Energy, which seeks to quickly translate the most promising ideas from basic research into incipient technologies, by 26.7% to $570 million. That is well short of the requested $700 million.
NASA’s science programs are funded at $8 billion, 5% or $431 million above current levels and roughly equal to the White House request. Earth science programs would get a 14% boost to $2.3 billion, below the White House request for a 17% boost to $2.4 billion. Planetary science research would get a roughly 1% increase to $3.2 billion, close to the White House request. Astrophysics would see a 12% increase to $1.56 billion, roughly equal to the White House request. The bill includes $828 million for heliophysics, $50 million above its current total and well above the administration’s request for a cut to $760 million.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The Senate committee increases EPA’s science and technology funding by 12.1%. It would bring that account to $853 million, $10 million shy of what the Biden administration has requested. The entire increase would go to rebuilding scientific capacity at the agency.
US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
At USDA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative—which provides competitive grants to the scientific community—would struggle to keep up with inflation. Its 2.2% increase, to $455 million, falls well short of the $564 million the White House has requested and the House spending panel has approved. Appropriators were more generous with the Agricultural Research Service, which received a 6.7% increase to $1.76 billion. Biden has requested $1.86 billion.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
NIST would get $1.7 billion, a sizeable increase of 38% or $466 million. The White House had requested $1.5 billion.
Much of that increase would go for constructing research buildings, most of them through noncompetitively awarded, “earmarked” grants. Other areas of emphasis for NIST’s increased research spending include developing standards and tools in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, repairing NIST’s Center for Neutron Research, and funding a new center to measure climate change. The bill also calls for broadening the base of demographic data used to develop facial recognition software.
US Geological Survey (USGS)
The overall budget of USGS would rise by 8.2%, to $1.52 billion. That is 11% less than the $1.71 billion the White House has requested. But appropriators noted that they support key agency priorities such as improving climate resilience, reducing natural hazards, and protecting water resources.
Department of Defense
The agency’s funding for basic research—much of which goes to university scientists—would rise to $3.36 billion, a sizable increase of 22%, or $598 million, over this year. The White House had requested $2.4 billion. The department’s various Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives, which fund specific programs at academic institutions, would get $747 million, an increase of 64%.