By Connor Dacey, GSA Science Policy Fellow
President Biden released his nearly $6 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2022 on May 28th, 2021. Within the request, discretionary spending, which includes federal science agencies, would increase 8% percent to $1.52 trillion. Now it is up to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to finalize spending levels through the appropriations process. Though Democrats control all three branches of government, their narrow majority margins in the House and Senate make the appropriations process more challenging. On the other hand, their democratic majorities suggest that the final Congressional numbers will align closely with the terms laid out in President Biden’s budget request.
President Biden’s budget request includes increases to the overall budgets of numerous scientific agencies, including the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It also more broadly supports increases in budgets of specific Department of Energy (DOE) offices and priorities relating to climate change, renewable energy, and critical minerals and resources. Recently, the House of Representatives considered three funding bills for these agencies: the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies bill, the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill, and the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill. The first two were approved by the full House of Representatives, but the latter is still being reviewed after it successfully passed the House Appropriations Committee. Below is a summarized comparison of the President’s budget request and the House’s appropriations.
The President’s budget request for the NSF is $10.17 billion, about a 20% increase over the agency’s FY21 budget. Included in this figure is $8.14 billion for Research and Related Activities, an 18% increase. There is also an initial request for $865 million for a new Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate at NSF that would grow to an investment of $50 billion over eight years. This directorate’s mission is to “advance science and engineering research and innovation leading to breakthrough technologies as well as solutions to national and societal challenges, sustaining and enhancing U.S. competitiveness on a global stage” and “accelerate the translation of fundamental discoveries from lab to market.” There is also $762 million requested for NSF support for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which “coordinates federal research on climate change and its impacts”. The Directorate for Geosciences would increase 19% to $1.19 billion. The House Appropriations Committee appropriated $9.63 billion for NSF, about $0.54 billion less than President Biden’s proposed budget, but still a nearly 14% increase from current levels. Included in the spending is $7.70 billion for Research and Related Activities, though the bill does not specify the exact amount allocated for the Directorates for TIP or Geosciences. Under the President’s request, NOAA’s budget would increase to near $7 billion. Included in NOAA’s proposed budget is an additional $1.40 billion from its fiscal year 2021 budget, with most of the spending being dedicated to expanding climate observation and forecasting work.
The House Appropriations Committee spending bill would provide NOAA with $6.46 billion, about $1.03 billion above FY 2021, but below the President’s request. The additional funds would support many of the President’s priorities, including climate research, weather forecasting, and STEM education.
NASA’s budget would increase by $1.50 billion, or 6% from the FY21 budget, to $24.80 billion under the President’s budget request. The Science mission area, which includes Earth Science, Planetary Science, Astrophysics, Heliophysics, the James Webb Space Telescope, and Biological and Physical Sciences, would account for $7.93 billion of the total request. More specifically, the Earth Science and Planetary Science budgets would increase to $2.25 billion (~13%) and $3.20 billion (~19%), respectively. The House Appropriations Committee spending bill would provide $25.04 billion for NASA in FY 2022, about 1% over President Biden’s request and $1.77 billion above the FY 2021 level. In total, the House Appropriations Committee provides the Science mission area $7.97 billion, with Earth Science and Planetary Science receiving $2.25 billion and $3.23 billion, respectively. These appropriations nearly equate those specified in the President’s budget request and would represent increases of roughly 13% and 20%.
The DOE’s budget would increase to a total of $46.20 billion in President Biden’s budget request. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s budget would increase to $4.73 billion, or $1.9 billion more than its current budget level. The Office of Science’s budget would increase more than $400 million to a total of $7.44 billion and be used to “better understand the changing climate; identify and develop novel materials and concepts for clean energy technologies of the future; advance artificial intelligence and computing to enhance prediction and decision- making across numerous environmental and scientific challenges; and support the National Laboratory network with cutting-edge scientific facilities.” Within the Office of Science, the President is requesting some of the largest increases in budgets for Biological and Environmental Research (an increase of nearly 10%), consistent with his priorities and interests in climate-related science and research. The budget also requests $820 million for carbon reduction and mitigation. The House Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies funding bill provides $45.10 billion for the DOE, just under the President’s request. The bill appropriates $3.77 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and $7.32 bill for the Office of Science. These would represent increases of 32% and 4%. The budget increase for Biological and Environmental Research is more modest than the President’s request, with an increase of about 7%. On August 4th, 2021, the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved their FY22 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. This bill includes $44.99 billion for the DOE, a value that is below both the President’s request and the House’s funding bill. However, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Science would receive $3.90 billion (~37% increase from FY21) and $7.49 billion (~7% increase from FY21), respectively, which are slightly greater than those figures agreed to in the House’s appropriations bill.
The USGS’s proposed budget would increase to $1.64 billion under the Biden Administration in fiscal year 2022. This represents a 25% increase over its FY21 mark of $1.32 billion. The budget requests increases to numerous USGS mission areas, including an 18% increases for Natural Hazards to a total of $208 million for mostly volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, geomagnetic storms, and coastal events, 55% increase for Energy and Mineral Resources to a total of $145 million, 35% for Core Science Systems to a total of $328 million, and a 10% increase for Water Resources to a total of $293 million. USGS would contribute an initial $60 million to the newly-founded Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C), which focuses on “reducing barriers between science production and user application” in the following five areas: “planning tools for habitat and biodiversity, models for drought prediction, predictive tools for fire and post-fire risk management, coastal change and vulnerability forecasts for planning and disaster response, and models to assess potential and risks for geologic storage of hydrogen, including hydrogen produced using renewable energy.” The budget also requests $205 million for climate-related initiatives, doubles the funding for the Climate Adaptation Science Centers Program, and increases efforts to “better characterize greenhouse gas emissions produced from activities on federal lands by $20 million.” Finally, USGS would also receive a $7.8 million increase to support diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within its workforce.
In the approved House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, the USGS’ appropriation is equivalent to President Biden’s request of $1.64 billion, an increase of $327 million from its FY21 budget. The bill includes an 18% increase to a total of $208 million for Natural Hazards, a 60% increase to a total of $145 million for Energy and Mineral Resources, a 30% increase to a total of $328 million for Core Science Systems, and a 12% increase to a total of $294 million for Water Resources. These increases closely mimic those limits set forth in the President’s request. The bill would also provide $30 million for ARPA-C (half of what was requested in the request) and $116 million for Climate Adaptation Science Centers. It does not specify the amount USGS would receive for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Although the House of Representatives has passed a number of its appropriations bills, there does not seem to be much progress at this time in the Senate aside from the Senate Committee on Appropriations approving their FY22 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. Currently, Senators are focused on the infrastructure and reconciliation packages. Additional funding for science agencies or programs may be incorporated in such bills. GSA will continue to monitor the progression of the appropriations process as Congress races the clock to approve a final budget before the October 1st deadline, though it is like a Continuing Resolution (CR) is likely moving into the fall.